Third line shows patience on offense

BOSTON -- Last season, the Bruins’ normal third line of Benoit Pouliot, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley combined for 46 goals, with Kelly leading the way with 20 lamplighters. It was welcome scoring depth for the Bruins, as the line depended on for their defensive play gave opponents another threat to worry about. But with Pouliot traded to Tampa Bay in the offseason and Chris Bourque now on the left wing and still trying to find his way, the third line has yet to find its stride offensively. Kelly hasn’t scored yet, and Peverley and Bourque have just one goal each.

But while the trio is trying to kickstart their offense, Kelly believes they’re at least getting better at what they’re counted on for, and that’s keeping the other team off the scoreboard.

“Our line was to contribute more offensively and I think we’re getting better with generating more time in the offensive zone,” Kelly said. “I think we’ve been pretty good in our own end. The offense will come, but when it’s not there, you need to do other things throughout the game that helps the team. Right now, I think we’re doing those little things that are helping the team.”

Kelly acknowledged, though, that just like the media and fans, he and his linemates expected to generate more offense by now. But they said they must be careful not to force it at the expense of letting up on their defensive game.

“It’s a fine line not pushing it and not getting away from our game," said Kelly. "I think we’re a defense-first team and especially our line is too. We don’t want to give up on our defensive part of the game to cheat to get some offense. When you’re not contributing like you have in the past, the tendency is to do that. But at the end of the day, that doesn’t help the team.”

Coach Claude Julien didn’t seem too worried about his third line, and pointed out that players are still shaking off rust after the lockout.

“They started with a new player again, and Chris [Bourque], as you know, has been feeling his way through,” Julien said. “Also, ‘Kells’ [Kelly] probably hasn’t had the start he had last year. He had a really good start last year where he scored a lot, and that’ll come. I think you look at how that line is getting more chances now, and Peverley’s getting some really good looks, and I think it’s just a matter of time before that line starts to produce. There’s lines that will start producing a little bit more, and we’ll be a better team down the road, but there’s still some guys that aren’t at the peak of their game, and that can be said about every player on every team in the league, around the league. Not everybody’s going at 100 percent yet.”