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Bruins struggle to find scoring touch

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J.  -- It seems an eternity ago that the Boston Bruins were an offensive juggernaut capable of outscoring the opposition just about any way imaginable.

Actually, it was only last season when the Bruins finished second in the League with a 3.29 goals per game average, striking for 270 over 82 regular-season games, and they had six players with at least 20 goals.

This season paints an entirely different picture, however. And while players and coach Claude Julien could point to the fact the team has played just six injury-free hockey games, they know excuses won't make things any easier.

Fact is, the Bruins are struggling mightily on offense this season, averaging a League-low 2.35 goals-per game. The club has a League-low 160 goals through 68 games, and just one 20-goal scorer, Marco Sturm.

While there have been some signs of life -- a 5-1 victory against Philadelphia on March 11 comes to mind -- the club has scored two or fewer goals in an alarming 16 of their last 21 games. That includes a 3-2 loss to the Devils on Monday in a game in which the Bruins outshot New Jersey 36-28.

Unlike last season, when they were in a battle with San Jose for the President's Trophy, the Bruins find themselves in a dogfight just to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Losing a guy like Marc Savard is tough because he's such a great player and a great talent. You can't just replace him with one guy; we all need to do more and that's what we're trying to do."
-- Patrice Bergeron

Injuries to Milan Lucic and play-making forward Marc Savard haven't helped the offensive doldrums. Still, center Patrice Bergeron knows now is the time for everyone to do a little more.

"I think, as a team, we all need to bring a little bit more," Bergeron said. "We all know it's tight in the standings, it's a playoff race right now. Losing a guy like Marc Savard is tough because he's such a great player and a great talent. You can't just replace him with one guy; we all need to do more and that's what we're trying to do. As a line, we do need to bring more; we need to score some goals."

Actually, Bergeron's line has been pretty productive of late. Along with linemates Mark Recchi and Sturm, the trio has combined for 7 goals and 14 points over the last four games. Bergeron, one player who will be relied upon heavily with Savard sidelined likely for the remainder of the season, has notched 3 goals and 6 points in that stretch.

"Generating chances hasn't been a problem at all, it's been getting results or the reward," said forward Blake Wheeler. "I don't want to say it's been bad luck since it's kind of been a consistent theme for us, but just having confidence in yourself and your ability I think goes a long way."

Wheeler, who has 4 goals and 5 points in his last five games, has had success on the club's second line, alongside center David Krejci and Michael Ryder.

"You see guys that maybe score a few goals and get on a roll and they look like goal scorers again, so a lot of it has to do with confidence," Wheeler said. "If you haven't scored in a while and are getting chances, you grip the stick tighter and I think that's kind of what we've been dealing with all year. Maybe guys aren't feeling as confident as they've been in the past, but we've had those chances."

Julien doesn't believe his team has been pressing even more since the season-ending injury to Savard.

"We're hoping that's not the case," Julien said. "It's more about showing a little resiliency or determination. There's nothing we can do about (Savard's injury). He's not here so I don't think pressing is going to help us. If anything else, it's the determination to succeed and we just have to go out there and show it every night."

Savard's concussion occurred following an open-ice hit to the head by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke late in the third period of a March 7 game in Pittsburgh. Two seasons ago, it was Bergeron who was left unconscious after a hit from behind by then-Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Randy Jones.

"He needs some time to rest and not think about too much," Bergeron said. "When I went through it, rest was something that was key for me to getting better. For me to improve, I had to take my time and stay patient and positive. I told (Savard) all that but, for now, I don't want to get into too much detail with him. It's more rest than anything else."

Wheeler knows it's not a matter of doing anything extraordinary; rather, doing the ordinary things a little sharper.

"Within each game, you want to help your team win, that's the goal," he said. "Individually, numbers take care of themselves so long as you worry about helping the team win. If you could produce a goal or two, that greatly increases the team's chances at winning because we do a good job defensively. I think everyone wants to chip in and score. You just can't let it blow out of proportion because that's when it gets put on a pedestal and then you're in trouble."

With a positive work ethic, he's confident the team will persevere while there's still light at the end of the playoff tunnel.

"Guys have to step up and take it upon themselves to know that we lost a huge part of our offense (in Savard), but that there's more opportunity now for guys getting expanded roles that they weren't in before and that's exciting," Wheeler said. "You have to embrace that and say, 'We lost a guy who could put the puck in the net and help others do so, but now I must take it upon myself to do it and hope that helps.'"

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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