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Julien is mum on starting goaltender vs Islanders

10.10.09 at 12:17 pm ET

It was a benevolent optional skate for the Bruins on Saturday morning after Claude Julien’s grueling bag skate practice on Friday following the blowout loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

Only goaltender Tuukka Rask and defenseman Johnny Boychuk took part in the on-ice portion of the skate, and — with that in mind — it’s likely that Bruins coach Claude Julien doesn’t have any lineup changes in mind for Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders.

Julien didn’t reveal any specifics in store for Saturday night’s game, and said he was looking for more of a mental makeover than roster shuffling. The vast majority of a Bruins lineup that piled up 116 points during the regular season still hangs their equipment in the Boston dressing room. In the coach’s mind, it’s just a matter of strapping on the Black and Gold-colored work boots and diving into the muck. 

“It all depends on what you talk about with changes,” said Julien. “I think it’s more that we have to come out a little hungrier, we have to come out more committed and we have to work hard. The team that we’re playing tonight is hard-working team, so it’ll be  a good test.”

–Not a lot of production to speak of out of Boston’s second line over the course of the first three games. Aside from power play points, Michael Ryder and David Krejci have been held scoreless in 5-on-5 play and Blake Wheeler carries the line’s only goal produced thus far. Even that tally came on a quick line change against the Carolina Hurricanes. Steve Begin created the play with a rush up the left side, and dished to Wheeler as he crashed down on the Hurricanes cage.

Krejci led the NHL in plus/minus last season, but is off to a slowpoke minus-3 thus far this year. Ryder is a minus-3 as well and Wheeler is slightly better at minus-2. The sluggish start for the trio is at least partially explained by Krejci’s absence during the entire preseason, and it stands to reason that it’s going to take the nifty 24-year-old center a modicum of time for his full two-way game to return. 

Wheeler called it “building confidence” for Krejci, who didn’t get a chance to work on that solid hockey foundation while missing all six of Boston’s preseason games.

“He was thrown into the fire when it counts, so he’s been doing it on the fly,” said Wheeler. “I think he’s done a great job of going from Day One and having to play. I think we’re coming around, and it only takes one puck going into the net for Krejch to be like his old self. It’s pretty simple.” 

What has Julien seen of the last year’s prolific line during the B’s first three games?

“Well, not much,” said Julien. “They’re not where we’ve seen them in the past, and a lot of is because we haven’t seen them together. With a guy like Krejci, he never played until the first regular season game. So you’ve got to give him time to find his game. You find chemistry the longer you play together, so that’ll come.

“Michael Ryder, I thought the second game he played well. I thought Krejci in his first game played well. I think Wheeler is coming around, so it’s all pointing in the right direction as far as them coming around. Right now, it’s hard to assess them because — to be honest with you — they haven’t a chance to go on all cylinders.”

The Krejci/Wheeler/Ryder line squeezed off 18 shots on net in Boston’s three games thus far, and Wheeler said he’d be more concerned about the their production if they weren’t collectively producing plenty of shots. It appears that the big minus numbers speak to a lessened commitment to backchecking and defensive responsibilities, but panic hasn’t quite set in after three games.

“When you’re not getting chances, that’s when the frustration creeps in,” said Wheeler. “If you’re creating chances and creating scoring opportunities, that’s all you can do. The puck going in the net, sometimes that’s something you can’t control. That last game guys had pucks going off their head and going into the net.

“It’s something where as long as you’re producing scoring chances, that’s what you’re going to measure yourself on. Sooner or later they’re going to go in. It’s just the way it works.”

Thursday’s loss was eye-opening for the young Bruins skaters, though. Make no mistake. Wheeler had never experienced a home spanking like the one endured Thursday night at the hands of a Anaheim Ducks squad that simply poured it on. The last time Boston was humbled like that on their home ice actually predated Wheeler’s time with the Bruins back in March of 2008.

“It was funny, Krejci and I were talking about that on the way to the rink yesterday. We hadn’t lost like that once last year,” said Wheeler. “Nothing had really happened like that. It should be an eye-opener and a real gut-check. The only way to show it is how we play tonight, so we’ll see what happens.”

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