The Boston Bruins have won five of their last seven games and are in the thick of the playoff race, but coach Claude Julien isn’t happy, especially after his team’s latest effort.
The visiting Bruins look to bounce back from their most recent loss with a fourth straight victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
In its first game since a thrilling 2-1 overtime Winter Classic victory over Philadelphia, Boston (21-13-7) fell 3-2 on the road to the New York Rangers on Monday. The Bruins - 5-2 since losing four in a row - rallied from two goals down to tie the game, but Julien doesn’t seem satisfied with his team’s overall attitude.
“There were times in the past that they had their dressing room under control,” he said. “Right now, you have to coach, you have to be a cheerleader, you’ve got to wake them up. You’ve got to do too many things that a coach shouldn’t have to do at this level.”
Despite the recent surge, Boston’s 107 goals are among the fewest in the NHL. Generating some offense could be more of a challenge with leading scorer Patrice Bergeron(notes) out of the lineup after being hit in the hand with a shot from teammate Dennis Wideman(notes) on Monday.
Bergeron, who has 11 goals and 20 assists, could be sorely missed against an Ottawa (22-16-4) club lurking one point behind the fifth-place Bruins in the Eastern Conference.
“These are opportunities that we just can’t waste,” Wheeler said. “We can’t wait and say with 20-something games left, ‘OK, let’s step on the gas now. That will be good enough.’ We’ve got to start now.”
Wheeler has a goal with three assists in his last five games overall, and one of each against Ottawa this season as Boston continues to dominate this Northeast Division rivalry. The Bruins have won 10 of the last 11 meetings with the Senators including all three this season, two of which have been played in Ottawa.
Recently-named U.S. Olympian Tim Thomas(notes) could be back in net for Boston after Tuukka Rask(notes) made 32 saves in Monday’s loss. Thomas has a 1.60 GAA while winning four of his last five starts, and has been even more dominant against Ottawa.
Thomas is riding a 10-game winning streak versus the Senators, posting a 1.47 GAA during that run. He’s been in net for all three matchups this season, including a 29-save effort in a 2-0 victory at Ottawa on Dec. 21.
This time, though, the Senators come in hot. They’ve won two in a row and four of their last five, including a 7-4 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday.
“All I can say is that it’s a good way to start 2010,” said Kovalev, who also went 16 straight games without a goal earlier in 2009-10. “Hopefully, that’s the way it’s going to go for me the rest of the season.”
Kovalev has one goal in his last eight games against Boston.