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Seventh-place Bruins thinking corrections, not collapse 03.16.12 at 11:38 pm ET
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The Bruins fell into seventh place in the Eastern Conference Friday night, something that would have seemed impossible back in late December when the Bruins were dominating teams left and right.

The Bruins are now seventh in the Eastern Conference. (AP)

Yet for as good as the Bruins were back in December (a nine-point lead in the Northeast Division and just three regulation losses over a two-month span), their horrid play of late has been enough to undo their good standing in both the division and the conference. The Senators haven’t needed to play well (10-10-3 over their last 23 games) to catch Boston, but they overtook the division Friday night with an overtime win over the Canadiens.

On Friday, the Bruins held an hour-long skate to try to get their legs going for Saturday’s game. They know that when they take on the Flyers, they won’t just be trying to break a season-worst four-game losing streak, but trying to get back in front of the Senators.

“If you ask anyone and [they say] they don’t know what the standings are, they’re lying to you,” Chris Kelly said after the practice. “Obviously, we know where we stand and where other teams stand. All we can do is focus on ourselves and the games we have coming up.”

It wasn’t too long ago that the Bruins were using the standings for motivation. They woke up on November 1 in last place in the Eastern Conference after a wretched October. The defending champs didn’t like it where they stood, so they did something about it by going 21-3-1 for the rest of 2011.

This slump is much worse than anything that happened in the first month of the season (3-7-0). This isn’t some ugly 10-game stretch to open the season, but a two-and-a-half-month-long collapse. They’ve given up five goals in three consecutive games, and have allowed six in their last two.

“To give up six goals in back-to-back games, that’s not the definition of this hockey team. I think we’re a good, sound hockey team, especially in our own end,” Kelly said. “That hasn’t shown in the last few games.”

The Bruins’ mistakes have been clear. Take the Panthers’ fifth goal Thursday for example. Kelly tried firing a pass across to Andrew Ference in the Bruins’ zone, but the pass went of Adam McQuaid‘s skate and bounced right to Tomas Kopecky in front to set up a Florida tally. The Bruins know what they’re doing wrong, but they can’t seem to keep from doing it. They’re running with just 12 games left in the regular season, they’re running out of time to figure it out.

“Obviously we’d like to [have fixed everything] after one game,” Patrice Bergeron said after Friday’s practice. “Right now it’s not happening. It’s about finding answers and not worrying about the four-game losing streak. It’s about us finding desperation and finding answers. It’s about us working hard and giving everything we’ve got on every shift and coming out on top on every shift. If we do that [every game] we’re going to be alright.”

Said Claude Julien: “You lose your identity when you lose the way [we] have been lately,” Julien said. “Any team that goes through a slump loses its identity. We understand that we have to work hard and win more battles and that comes again with the attitude. The breakdowns are kind of camouflaging the fact that we are still a pretty hard-working team, but when you don’t work smart, you don’t look like a hard-working team.”

If they don’t figure it out, the Senators will stay atop the division, while the Bruins would likely remain in seventh place, making for a regular-season collapse that would be considered unfathomable had some baseball team not just re-written the book on regular-season collapses.

The Bruins know they’re headed down a disappointing path unless they right the ship. Fixing it is their only option, assuming they can do so in time.

“It’s not really a thought right now,” Kelly said of losing the division. “We’re going to go play and see what happens.”

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Bruins looking forward to second meeting with Rangers 02.13.12 at 6:38 pm ET
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After grinding out a hard-fought win Saturday in a shootout against the Predators, the Bruins will need to bring another complete effort if they want two points Tuesday night against the Rangers.

Yet when it comes to facing the Rangers, the B’s have more to gain than just two points. A win against John Tortorella‘s club in their second meeting can prove that the Bruins can hang with the squad that’s been the best team in the Eastern conference this season.

The Bruins were able to hang with the Rangers last time around, but lost, 3-2, in overtime after Andrew Ference was ejected for shoving Ryan McDonagh into the end boards, making way for a Marian Gaborik power-play goal to give the Rangers the win. It was an ugly way to end it for the B’s, but they’re determined to bring another strong effort to the table against New York Tuesday.

“We’re a good team. We’re a confident group,” Chris Kelly said after Monday’s practice. “This is a great challenge, a great opportunity for us to play another good team.”

This season, the Rangers have been more than just a good team. They boast a conference-best 77 points and are second in the league in goals-against against (the Bruins are fourth). The B’s average a league-best 3.4 goals per game, and the Rangers are 10th with 2.8.

The Bruins and Rangers have their similarities and differences — both teams get outstanding goaltending from the best netminders in the league, while the Rangers block far more shots than the Bruins — but the biggest difference between the two teams this season is consistency. After both teams got off to slow starts, the B’s caught fire for two months and began slumping, while the Rangers really haven’t slowed down since heating up. They’ve won five of their last six games.

The Bruins have played one less game than the Rangers this season (53 to New York’s 54) and trail them by seven points for the conference lead. Should the race come down to wire late in the regular season, the Bruins will be hurt by the fact that they’ve gotten six of their wins in the shootout this season, while the Rangers have won only three in the shootout. When teams finish the season tied in points, the tie-breaker is ROW, or regulation and overtime wins. The Rangers currently have 33 such victories, tops in the NHL, while the B’s have 28. For that reason, it’s likely that the Bruins will simply need to finish the regular season with more points in order to secure the top seed. A regulation win over the Rangers Tuesday would go a long way in helping their cause.

“It’s a very big game,” Brad Marchand said Monday. “They’re obviously at the top of the conference right now and we want to try and catch them. They’re playing very good hockey right now. We have to make sure we’re prepared for that and out out best game on the ice.

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Bruins not taking Sabres lightly 02.08.12 at 1:11 pm ET
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BUFFALO — Bruins coach Claude Julien said Tuesday that he’d like to see his team play better against non-playoff teams. The B’s will face one Wednesday in Buffalo, and the Sabres are desperately trying to climb up the standings to shake the “non-playoff team” label.

The Sabres were a tough team to project at the beginning of the season. They had spent money in the offseason, but there was still question as to whether they were deep enough to be a legitimate contender. Injuries and inconsistency have answered those questions, and Sabres are currently 14th in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of the last-place Hurricanes.

Yet Buffalo has picked it up of late, going 3-0-1 over its last four games to follow up a five-game losing streak. This might be the point in the season in which cellar-dwelling teams begin to embrace the role of “spoiler,” but when the Bruins look at the Sabres, they see a hungry team that wants to make up the 11 points that currently separate Buffalo from a playoff spot.

“There are obviously maybe some teams that are out of the playoff picture, but [Buffalo] is definitely not one of them,” Bruins center Chris Kelly said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “I think they’ve been playing well of late. They want to come out and play well, just like we do and they want to move up the standings, just like we do as well.”

The Bruins expect a hard game from the Lindy Ruff-less Sabres, but at this point in their schedule, they expect a hard game from every team they face.

“If you look, there’s a lot of three-point games. There’s no secret to that,” Kelly said. “Teams are bearing down, and if there’s a for at least one point, you’d better believe both teams are going to get that one point and they’re going to fight for that second point. There’s no easy points in the second half, and that hasn’t been a secret for years.”

The Bruins are 2-0-0 against the Sabres this season, and they hope to carry momentum from Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Capitals into Wednesday’s contest.

“Especially in the Washington game, I thought we played a consistent 60 minutes,” Kelly said. “For the most part, we were in control the entire game. We got back to doing those little things that make us successful, the attention to detail, a lot of things that maybe go unnoticed and don’t make the highlights, but are needed if you’re going to be successful.”

Based on the lines in Wednesday’s morning skate, Claude Julien is going to go with the same lines against the Sabres that he used against the Capitals. That means that Kelly will remain on the team’s top line between Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley.

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Chris Kelly on M&M: ‘I’d love to stay here’ 01.06.12 at 1:35 pm ET
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Chris Kelly becomes an unrestricted free agent at season's end. (AP)

With Brad Marchand sick and unable to make his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show, fellow forward Chris Kelly filled in to talk about Thursday’s rout of the Flames and Saturday’s highly anticipated Stanley Cup finals rematch with the Canucks.

The Bruins continued their red-hot ways — nine wins in 10 games — with Thursday’s 9-0 rout of the Flames, and the balanced scoring throughout the lineup has been impressive.

“Every line goes out and plays hard,” Kelly said. “I’ve been on other teams that have been pretty deep and have had success, but not to this extent. Our first line all the way down to our fourth line, all lines play the exact same way and work hard and do their job defensively. Obviously, certain guys have more offensive abilities, but I think for the most part we go out and play the system and work hard.”

Looking back on the team’s first-month struggles and subsequent resurgence, Kelly acknowledged some of it had to do with the team being overconfident following last season’s championship.

“We heard it from everybody about this Stanley Cup hangover,” he said. “I think maybe certain games we came in just feeling a sense of entitlement. Winning a Stanley Cup, we figured we could just show up and we’d get the two points. But every team came at us even harder because of what he accomplished the year before.

“I think it took us a month to realize that. When November came around, I think collectively as a group we realized we had to play better, and we did.”

Next up for the Bruins is a Saturday matinee against the Canucks. Kelly downplayed the importance of the matchup.

“The media has hyped this up more than the players have,” he said. “We just want to go out and have a good game. They’re playing extremely well — I think they’re first in the West — and we’re playing well right now. We don’t have anything to prove other than going out there and playing hard and trying to get the two points.”

Kelly wouldn’t admit to the Bruins having revenge on their minds despite the likes of Canucks pest Alex Burrows returning to Boston.

“It was a good, physical series, battled hard by both sides and went the distance to seven,” he said. “We just want to go out there and play hard and play our style. We’re a big, strong, physical team when we’re playing at our best, and that doesn’t change regardless of who we’re playing.”

Kelly’s contract expires after this season. While he said that no negotiations have been going on, he left no doubt that he hopes to return.

“Obviously, I’d love to stay here,” he said. “Boston’s a great city, a great team. My wife and I have enjoyed this city so much since we’ve been here. It couldn’t have been a more perfect thing for me to come here last year and end up coming to a great team that wins the Stanley Cup. Hopefully, it’s something we can get worked out.”

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Bruins-Devils Live Blog: Nick Palmieri ties it at 3 11.15.11 at 6:38 pm ET
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Bruins-Sabres Live Blog: Marc-Andre Gragnani makes it 6-2 11.12.11 at 6:56 pm ET
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Bruins ‘tired’ of last place, can leap-frog Islanders with win 11.07.11 at 12:27 pm ET
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The B’s have finally won two games in a row, but to say they’ve polished off a greasy breakfast and finally shaken that nasty Stanley Cup hangover may be a bit of a stretch. After all, they’re still in last place in the Eastern Conference.

That can change Monday night at TD Garden, though. Neither of the Bruins’ last two wins have let them budge in the standings, but that’s just the NHL being the NHL. It’s tough to move in the standings when points are doled out in such plentiful fashion. With the Islanders in town, the Bruins will face the only other team in the Eastern Conference with only 10 points, so a victory Monday would move the B’s out of 15th, all the way up to 14th.

“We can move up the standings. That’s got to be a motivation factor,” Chris Kelly said after Monday’s morning skate. “I think all the guys are tired of seeing our name at the bottom there, so you’ve just got to come out and be consistent like we were the last game. ”

The last game to which Kelly refers saw the B’s score seven goals, and the one before that had them score five. Now it’s a matter of the B’s keeping the pedal to the medal, because it will take a prolonged stretch of winning hockey to get the Bruins back into the playoff picture. Kelly likes the way things have been going of late, but rather than looking at the progress they make in the standings, he’ll look at progress on the ice.

“Obviously you want to move up int he standings, but it’s early days. We just need to focus on playing our best hockey,” Kelly said. “If we don’t play the way we’re capable of playing, then we won’t move up the standings and we’ll be stuck where we’re at. I think if you get too focused on the standings at this point of the year, I think you can maybe get in trouble.”

Not as much trouble as the B’s will be in if they stay in last place for much longer. Monday provides them with an opportunity to get out of a position they never belonged in, and they’d be wise to capitalize.

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