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Bruins' top trio trying to tune up

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Clearly upset during a drill toward the end of practice Friday afternoon, Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic slammed his stick against the Ristuccia Arena glass.

A few minutes later, when the players were leaving the ice, Lucic threw his stick into the stands. When the hulking forward is upset, especially on the ice, there's a certain look he gets -- one his teammates and opponents know well.

Lucic is usually at his best when he has that look. But it's been missing of late.

He has not scored since Feb. 24 at Florida. Overall, he has four goals and 10 assists for 14 points this season.

"I've been overpassing a little too much," Lucic said. "I think a shoot-first mentality is something that I had the last two years, and it's something I have to get back to."

During his six-year career with the Bruins, Lucic has had a tendency to fall into a goal-scoring drought, and this season is no different. His current skid is 10 games without a goal. He has suffered similar scoreless stretches in previous seasons: eight games (2011-12), 12 games (2010-11), 10 games (2009-10), 15 games (2008-09) and 20 games during his rookie season in 2007-08.

Bruins coach Claude Julien has told his top line of Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton that they have to play better. Based on Lucic's frustration during Friday practice, Julien understands why one of the team's top wingers is aggravated.

"That frustration would be normal," Julien said.

It is normal to feel that way when a player is held scoreless for an extended period of time. Lucic, Krejci and Horton are encouraged, however, by the fact that they are getting the scoring opportunities, even though those chances aren't going in.

"You want to do everything you can to get chances, but also you want to get results," Lucic said. "For myself, it's been frustrating lately, not being able to get a goal, but you've got to stick with it. We're in a place where mentally we're getting tested, and it's how we come out of it that will show our true character. If we do, it'll make us better as players."

Horton's latest goal came on Feb. 28 against Ottawa, and he's had only two assists since then. Overall, he's recorded seven goals and six assists for 13 points.

Of the three, Krejci has been the most consistent player on that line. In 25 games, he has six goals and 15 assists for 21 points. Krejci has been playing well, but he's not barred from Julien's corrective criticism of that line.

"David has been pretty consistent throughout the year, but I don't think he should be excluded from the line not doing well. They're a line and they reap the benefits together and they should take the responsibilities together, as well."

Krejci believes his line is closing in on a successful performance.

"I think we're right there. We just have to be, and we know we're way better than we've showed the last couple of games, but we're still creating some chances and we need to make sure we bury those," Krejci said. "Our job here is to produce and we're not doing it as much as we want to. At least we know we need more than that. As long as we're getting chances it's a good sign, and we have to stick with that."

All that line needs is a lucky bounce to get on a roll. They nearly had it Thursday night, but what appeared to be a goal was disallowed because of incidental contact with Florida Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen.

Krejci wants his line to forget about being cute with the puck and just do what comes naturally. If they can do that, the points will come.

To return to form, their forecheck needs to be relentless, and when they do control the puck, good movement and smart passes is the key. It comes down to Lucic and Horton to use their speed and size to create havoc.

"If we're going to have success, we're gonna have to do a lot more of that," Lucic said. "That's what gives us a lot of success and that's what ultimately helps us play in the offensive zone more. When we work off each other and play with that chemistry that we've created over the last couple of years, it's a lot of fun and we can definitely be a line that contributes and can be dangerous."

Once that first line finds its rhythm and maintains it with a consistent effort, it will make the Bruins a better team.

With only 23 games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins need their top trio to perform. Instead of trying to be too cute with their playmaking skills, the idea should be to get the puck deep, track it down, gain control and capitalize.

During a normal 82-game season, players can usually find down time to get away from the game when needed. But during this lockout-shortened, 48-game season, hockey is being played nearly every day.

"It's definitely on your mind and it sticks with you on your days off," Lucic said. "It's hard to get away from it, but in a way it's kind of a good thing with having all that time off [during the lockout], and you've got to do whatever you can to be mentally strong and get through it."

Another opportunity will present itself when the Bruins host the Washington Capitals in a Saturday matinee game at TD Garden.