Q. Is it just me or is Milan Lucic very inconsistent. He started the year off really slow, then he's on fire for a few games, then he sort of disappears for a while again. He was similar last year. Is that just the type of player that he is or can he become more consistent? -- Jim (Natick, Mass.)
A. Jim, I feel the same way, but as someone pointed out to me, "Maybe he is consistent in a bad way: because he is so streaky." Either way, I agree with your point and one would hope this will change soon. The Bruins can ill afford to have him continue this streaky play where as you point out, he disappears for long stretches. A great example of this was last season when, after scoring his 30th goal of the season on March 22, he didn't score another goal for 20 games until Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. But just because he isn't scoring -- and he is in the midst of a seven-game drought -- doesn't always mean he isn't effective. Lately Lucic has been helping to create goals with his size, and that's a great sign. As long as he is doing his job -- skating hard and working hard along the boards or driving to the net -- then the goals will eventually come. But I agree that there are stretches where none of that is in his game.
Q. Do you think Rask could end up being the No. 1 [goalie] by the end of the season? If so, do you think there's any shot the B's would look to trade Thomas instead (since all the trade talk has focused on Rask)? -- Brian (Boston)
A. Brian, Are you insane? Trade Tim Thomas? Ha! Just kidding, my friend. But that is the response you will get from many fans and media, and it's the response I get whenever I've floated the idea here a few times and on air numerous times. I had predicted that Tuukka Rask would be the starter by the end of this season because I thought the batteries would run out on the 37-year-old Thomas, but once again Thomas has proved that he ages like a fine wine. That being said, Rask looks really good right now and I think Claude Julien won't hesitate to use him more often, should Thomas ever look human and tire a bit. I don't see either of them being dealt during the season, but I can't understand not entertaining offers for Thomas considering his age and contract and the fact that Rask is getting even better and is younger.
Q. I think Andy Ference has been one of the unsung standouts this year for the Bruins. He's not flashy, but he plays a solid two-way game every night. Thoughts? -- Andy J. (Springfield, Mass.)
A. Andy, I'd agree -- and not a bad first name, eh? Andrew Ference is unsung by some in the media and maybe among fans as well, but it isn't the case in the locker room. That's why he is an alternate captain now. He is a steady, physical presence, and his leadership is huge both on and off the ice. I could definitely see Ference retiring as a Bruin, even with all the other contracts that are set to expire in the next few seasons.
Q. Seems like Tyler Seguin has regressed some in the last couple of weeks. What have you seen in his game over that span and what does he need to do to improve his play? -- George (Portland, Maine)
A. George, I'd agree completely. I have noticed him seemingly floating out there lately. Obviously many will point to his healthy scratch for missing a team meeting in Winnipeg as a major distraction, but I look back to when he was named player of the week for Nov. 7-13. Since then he has just two goals and four assists in 14 games and has not been backchecking like he was earlier in the season. His coach, teammates and anyone in the organization will tell you that his backchecking and focus on his defensive game were the reason for the strong start he had, and he needs to get back to that.
Q. Do you think the Bruins need to add more defensive depth? I liked Kampfer last year, but I'm just not sure he's ready to be a regular if one of the top six goes down for any length of time. -- Jerry K. (Waltham, Mass.)
A. Jerry, I agree with you on Steven Kampfer. He looks lost out there and seems to have no confidence with the puck, which is obviously not good for a defenseman. The Bruins love his puck-moving skills and potential, but if he doesn't have the confidence he needs, that talent is rendered meaningless. I think they need to call up another defenseman from Providence and let Kampfer regain his form down in the AHL. I have said numerous times, I think the Bruins will make a deal for a defenseman by the trade deadline in February and I still believe that. Their depth isn't strong enough.
Q. So I've sent in a few emails pretty much wondering what the heck Julien sees in Benoit Pouliot but after watching the games for the past two weeks I can see it now, he's been a force. He is a great forechecker and works very well with Kelly and Peverley. I take back everything bad I've ever said about him. He may not be putting up huge point totals but his hard work and tenacity have been what the Bruins wanted when they signed him, no? -- Adam (Milford, Maine)
A. Adam, I was right with you and questioned Claude Julien for sticking with Benoit Pouliot after he took two very irresponsible penalties at Montreal Nov. 21 in a 1-0 Bruins win. But Pouliot rewarded Julien's faith, and as you pointed out Pouliot has been using the strength and size that so many saw potential in when he was drafted fourth overall by Minnesota in the 2005 NHL entry draft. One thing I think Pouliot has needed was a tough-love coach like Julien who communicates well. Pouliot hadn't had that before, and it seems like they have a solid player-coach relationship. Playing with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley has also helped him.
Q. What's your take on the amount of shots on net the Bruins have been receiving? Penalties certainly don't help that situation. Any other takes on why they are giving up so many? -- John (N.Y.)
A. John, I have been tweeting about this lately and it worries me the amount of shots they're allowing. Luckily they have two of the best goalies in the game in Thomas and Rask but this can't continue or eventually those two will tire and the shots will start to go in. It almost looks like the Bruins are sitting back and taking a bend-but-don't-break approach. They will eventually break if they don't start attacking more.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.