May 12, 2011

New forward combos must click quick for B's

by Jesse Connolly

Both Michael Ryder (left) and Mark Recchi (right) will have new linemates to adjust to in the conference finals. (Getty)

BOSTON -- United in January, the trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi spent nearly four months together as a line for the Bruins. Over the course of that time, they developed chemistry, picked up on each other's tendencies and found the best way to complement one another.

Unfortunately Bergeron's concussion threw a wrench into coach Claude Julien's configurations, forcing him to shuffle the deck and attempt to quickly establish that same comfort level with two different lines.

Chris Kelly has now taken over Bergeron's spot on Boston's second line, while Tyler Seguin has been plucked from the press box and slotted in on the third line in Kelly's place. So far, Julien likes what he's seen, but that's no guarantee that things remain the way they are.

"Right now (it) has been pretty good and I mean, if we move somebody around, it will probably be a centerman," the coach said. "And there’s a good chance it could be [Rich] Peverley moving up and it could be [Chris] Kelly moving back down, or even [Gregory] Campbell. You shouldn’t forget Campbell because he can play center and he can also play wing."

Having a variety of players to choose from is hardly a problem for Julien, as it's truly a testament of how much depth the team has put together.

"We’ve got a lot of different options here with different guys," Julien said. "And we’ve seen [Daniel] Paille at times step up and have to fill in some holes, and that can be for certain shifts and everything else. So that’s why we feel comfortable with our depth.

"And Tyler [Seguin] is a guy that, if he finds his game and he’s comfortable, (can succeed). He’s got speed, he’s got skill and it doesn’t take him much sometimes to create something and we see that in practice everyday. Hopefully that confidence carries into the games."

While his squad's depth certainly has the potential to come in handy, it won't mean much of anything for Julien and the Bruins if the new lines can't gel quickly.

"I think right now, we feel pretty comfortable with what we’ve got," Boston's bench boss said. "I don’t think we’re looking for miracles right off the bat, but we need guys who work through it. And there’s no reason why we can’t work through it."

Marchand echoed his coach's sentiments, as the winger sees a lot of similarities between Bergeron and Kelly. 

"They both work very hard and they're both great defensive players," said Marchand. "Bergy is obviously a very high-skilled player, but Kelly is having a great playoffs right now. He's put up a lot of points and he's scoring some big goals for us. I think he's going to fit on our line perfectly."

One potential logistical problem that Julien may have created is the fact that perhaps each line has three forwards with a little too much in common. Marchand, Kelly and Recchi are all lefties, while Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin are all right-handed shots.

"When I come out I just like to be on my forehand in the corners because  it's easier to make a play," said Marchand, who doesn't foresee playing alongside two lefties being an issue. "Kelly is the same way. He's going to be in that same corner with me. He's a lefty and Rex is a lefty.

"We just have to support each other and we have to know that, most of the time, we'll be coming out on our forehands. If we can read off that, then someone should be able to pop out into the high slot at the right time."

 Many wonder if a handful of practices will be enough time for the new forward combos to click, but Marchand believes his line won't miss a beat with Kelly lined up down the middle.

"It's always a little different, but for the most part at this level and at this part of the year, everyone kind of plays the same way," the rookie winger said. "There may be an adjustment period but we're feeling pretty good right now. We just want to keep it simple and, if we do that, we should show up on the score-sheet."