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Bruins facing questions about gaps in lineup

by Matt Kalman /

BOSTON -- An offseason of change for the Boston Bruins began April 15 with the firing of general manager Peter Chiarelli.

Don Sweeney, who was promoted from assistant GM to replace Chiarelli on May 20, traded defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Milan Lucic on June 26, then made two moves July 1 aiming to improve Boston's youth and depth and get the Bruins back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they failed to qualify for the first time since 2007.

Here are three questions facing the Bruins entering the season:

Do the Bruins have enough offense? On the list of reasons Boston finished tied for 22nd in the NHL in scoring (2.55 goals per game) last season, center David Krejci missing 35 games because of injuries is at the top. Krejci, who had 31 points in 47 games after he had 69 in 80 in 2013-14, should be back at full health this season.

The Bruins hope some new players will help Krejci give the offense a jolt.

Forward Matt Beleskey, who scored 22 goals with the Anaheim Ducks last season, signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1. That day, the Bruins traded Reilly Smith to the Florida Panthers for Jimmy Hayes; Smith scored 13 goals last season, Hayes had 19.

Then there are the young players who have to continue to blossom. Center Ryan Spooner had five goals and four assists in Boston's final 12 games to finish with 18 points in 29 games. Right wing David Pastrnak had 27 points in 46 games as a rookie.

Beyond left wing Brad Marchand and center Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins no longer have a lot of forwards with experience playing together. So they'll have to mix and match to find the right place in the lineup for the above-mentioned players, plus Brett Connolly, Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly.

Who picks up the slack caused by Dougie Hamilton's departure? After signing Matt Irwin on July 11, Sweeney has refrained from acquiring another free agent defenseman. The Bruins have six returning defensemen, including Kevan Miller, who was limited to 41 games because of injuries last season, but Boston is lacking a player with the two-way abilities of Hamilton.

Barring an acquisition, a prospect will have a chance to fill that role. Zach Trotman fared well as Zdeno Chara's partner when Hamilton was injured last season. Joe Morrow also might get a chance. The Bruins will be looking at Colin Miller for the first time after he was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the Lucic trade.

Improved play from Torey Krug and 34-year-old Dennis Seidenberg, a full season removed from serious knee surgery, would soften the blow of losing Hamilton.

Who's going to spell Tuukka Rask? The Bruins' No. 1 goalie played an NHL career-high 70 games last season. He had a 2.30 goals-against average and .922 save percentage but at times looked worn out when Boston needed him most.

With Niklas Svedberg leaving for the Kontinental Hockey League in May, the Bruins have three untested goaltenders behind Rask. Only Malcolm Subban has any NHL experience, and he played a little more than one period in the League. First-year pro Zach McIntyre, and Jeremy Smith, a Nashville Predators second-round pick in 2007, are also expected to compete for the backup job. In order to get back to the playoffs, the Bruins are going to have to do a better job of preserving Rask's best play, but it's uncertain whether they have the depth to do that.

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