Category archive: Boston Bruins

If you're Patrice Bergeron, the 2009-10 season will forever be memorable for all kinds of reasons.

A mixed bag, really.

On the one hand, there's the image of him setting up the winning goal in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park, a moment that underlined his full-circle comeback from a career-threatening concussion two years before. And there's the memory he cares about most -- standing on the ice at GM Place in Vancouver and belting out the words to "O Canada" in late February.

And yet, Bergeron can't pick and choose his 2009-10 memories. He can't forget the second-round playoff collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers; the Bruins became the first team in 35 years to blow a 3-0 series lead.

Quite the season for the 25-year-old Boston Bruins center.

"Obviously, I was honored and happy with the Olympics. To have a chance to win a gold medal in Canada, that will be something I will never forget, that's for sure," Bergeron told ESPN.com this week. "But at the same time, with the Bruins, it didn't finish like we wanted. So it was a weird season, I guess."

The talented Bergeron is a character player and, along with captain Zdeno Chara and the other leaders on the B's, he'll need to make sure his dressing room has healed and turned the page on last spring's sickening turn of events.

"Looking back at it, it was tough to swallow," said Bergeron. "It took me a while to get past that, but we have to move forward. We're a great team. We showed that last year. We didn't get the result against Philly, but at the same time, there's 29 teams that are not satisfied with last year. It's only Chicago that won the Cup."

Well put.

So what exactly do we have in these Bruins this season? To me, they are the real X factor in the Eastern Conference. I suspect you'll see prognosticators vary wildly as they size them up. Some will see them as the club that won the Eastern Conference two years ago; others will view them as the team that struggled at times last season and folded so badly against the Flyers.

Can they re-establish themselves as a legitimate contender along with the Eastern powerhouses in Philly, Pittsburgh, Washington and New Jersey?

"I think we have the team to do that," Bergeron said. "I think we can do some good things."

The Bruins begin the regular season in Prague on Oct. 9-10 with weekend games against the Phoenix Coyotes. The trip will be kicked off with an exhibition matchup against the Belfast Giants in Ireland on Oct. 2.

The league's annual trek to Europe, in its fourth year now, can be seen as a distraction by some players, but Bergeron is stressing the positive.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Bergeron, who totaled 52 points (19-33) in 73 regular-season games last season. "I actually have family roots in Ireland, so it should be a lot of fun. Obviously, being on the road in Europe will create a bond and good chemistry for the team right away. That's a good thing."

And it won't be his first time in Prague. I was there myself in the spring of 2004 when a young Bergeron helped Canada capture the men's world championship, a team coached by Mike Babcock and also featuring the likes of Scott Niedermayer, Roberto Luongo, Danny Briere and Jay Bouwmeester.

"I was 18 years old and we won gold," Bergeron said. "The city is beautiful and I really look forward to being there again."

And he looks forward to turning the page on last season.

LOS ANGELES -- The free-agent class is deep in goal this summer, but the market for netminders isn't limited to unrestricted free agents.

Tim Thomas is under contract and being shopped around by the Boston Bruins, but whether the veteran goalie actually finds a new home is far from certain. For starters, he calls the shots with a no-trade clause. Secondly, he's got $15 million and three years left on his contract and it's expected goalies like Evgeni Nabokov, Marty Turco, Chris Mason, Dan Ellis and Martin Biron, among others, will come cheaper than $5 million a season come July.

On the other hand, he's a former Vezina Trophy winner whose numbers the past five seasons rank with almost anyone's.

The Bruins really want to shed themselves of Thomas' deal now that Tuukka Rask has established himself as a No. 1 goalie, and they've given permission to Thomas' agent, Bill Zito, to directly phone other NHL clubs.

"I do have permission to talk to teams," Zito told ESPN.com on Thursday afternoon. "But I'm not pounding the pavement looking for a team."

So where do things stand?

"What we agreed to with [Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli] is that he would see what's out there," Zito said. "Tim said he would look at whatever Pete brought to us and decide from there. But Pete hasn't brought anything to us at this point. I guess that could change at any point though."

L.A. goaltending story

Jonathan Quick's name has somehow surfaced in Internet-fueled trade rumors involving the Los Angeles Kings goalie.

"Yeah, I read that the other day. There's no way. He's not going anywhere," Kings GM Dean Lombardi told ESPN.com on Thursday.

Is Michael Leighton staying or going?

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told ESPN.com on Thursday he's still willing to re-sign the potential UFA goalie. In fact, Holmgren and Leighton's agent, Mike Liut, met Thursday here in Los Angeles.

More goalie talk

In Tampa Bay, Antero Niittymaki may suddenly be available. A week ago, both sides were positive about the chances he would re-sign with the Lightning; but one source involved in the situation said Thursday he is more than likely headed to unrestricted free agency.

"We had discussions earlier, but there's nothing imminent right now," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, not the source I cited above, told ESPN.com via e-mail Thursday.

If Niittymaki heads to the market, it just makes the free-agent group that much deeper, joining others such as Jose Theodore, Vesa Toskala and Johan Hedberg. It also means teams will have the upper hand in negotiations come July. A lot of goalies, but not enough jobs for all of them. When the music stops, you don't want to be the goalie left standing without a job in late July.

How will it all shake out? One NHL executive told ESPN.com on Thursday he wouldn't be surprised if Turco ended up in San Jose.

"He's played really well at the Shark Tank over the years," said the executive. "But he'd have to take a pay cut."

Turco told ESPN.com last week that his priority was joining a winning team, so San Jose certainly fits that criteria. So does Philadelphia. In both cases, however, Turco would have to take a pay cut from the $5.7 million salary he made this past season.

And finally ...

• Turco's old team, the Dallas Stars, could be busy here over the next few days. They are deep up front and are hoping to move a forward, possibly Mike Ribeiro (three more years on his deal at $5 million per).

"Lots of dialogue. We'll see what happens here," Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk told ESPN.com on Thursday, declining to discuss specific names.

• One rumor making the rounds Thursday was that Ribeiro could land in St. Louis, where former Stars GM Doug Armstrong, who acquired the center from Montreal while in Dallas, is now running the Blues. But when asked about acquiring Ribeiro, a front-office source in St. Louis said it was "unlikely."

• And finally, the agent for Chris Higgins, UFA July 1, said Thursday the Calgary Flames aren't ruled out. "I'm meeting with [Flames GM] Darryl Sutter tomorrow," Matt Keator told ESPN.com.

• It wouldn't be a free-agency update without Tomas Kaberle talk. One Leafs front-office source told ESPN.com early Thursday afternoon that "things were heating up." Stay tuned!

LAS VEGAS -- You can forget all those Internet-fueled Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs trade rumors involving either Tomas Kaberle or Marc Savard.

"There's no truth to it," Leafs GM Brian Burke told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

That's not to say Kaberle can't end up a Bruin one day, but it won't be for Savard. Kaberle is on the trade market; Burke has been up front about that all along. But the Bruins haven't moved into the picture at this point. Burke took the time to fully update the Kaberle situation for us:

"First off, before people get too worked up, Tomas Kaberle's no-trade clause does not go away until the draft commences," Burke said. "So, this notion that he's been moved or a deal has been arranged is absurd. Two, we have not had meaningful discussions with the Boston Bruins about any one trade option.

"Three, if and when we do get to a point where we see a deal that makes sense, we're going to try to move Tomas somewhere where he wants to go, and that's if we get that far. Right now, if I had to handicap this thing, I'd say he's not going anywhere, and the draft is not a meaningful time frame for us. There's no pressure to trade him while we're there."

In a perfect world, the Leafs would like to trade Kaberle in return for a bona-fide top-six forward, but they're not going to deal him for the sake of dealing him. They're not giving one of the game's top puck movers away (Kaberle has one year left on his deal at $4.25 million).

Latest out of Ottawa

I checked in with Senators GM Bryan Murray on the Jason Spezza front. Nothing new there, and that's not surprising. As one NHL GM from a Western Conference club told ESPN.com this week, "I wouldn't get interested until after that bonus payment is made."

Spezza is due to receive a $4 million bonus payment July 1, just like Dany Heatley a year ago. But this time around, the Senators have no plans to pay the bonus and still make the trade.

"I guarantee you this: This situation is not what happened last year," Murray told ESPN.com on Wednesday from Los Angeles. "If we pay the money, then he's going to be playing for us for the year. We can't do that again. We just can't do that."

Spezza's no-trade clause also kicks in July 1, so clearly the clock is ticking for the talented center. He opened up this can of worms in his player exit meeting by saying he didn't like the way the fans got on him this season and would be open to a move.

"There's nothing at this point," Murray said. "I have talked to a couple of teams to see if there's anybody out there. Jason is not demanding a trade, but he said he wouldn't object to one if something happened. And that's where it is. There's nothing more to it at this point."

And finally ...

• Expect Drew Doughty's agent, Don Meehan, to chat with Kings GM Dean Lombardi over the next few days in Los Angeles. Doughty has one more year left on his entry-level deal, but Lombardi wants to lock him up long-term this summer. We'll see if both sides find a fit.

"Obviously, I would love for that to happen. I would love to sign a deal in L.A. again," Doughty told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "I love playing in L.A., but nothing has happened yet and I'm just waiting in the weeds and seeing what happens."

• There have been questions surrounding Niki Filatov's future after he left the Columbus Blue Jackets, with their consent, to go play in Russia this past season. Will he return to the Jackets for 2010-11? "Yes," Jackets GM Scott Howson texted to us Wednesday.

A goalie in the mix for the Vezina and Hart trophies, a defenseman who is the odds-on favorite to win the Calder Trophy, a team offense that was top 10 in the NHL this season and a goals-against average that was top five.

Sounds like a Stanley Cup contender, right?

Well, you'd be hard-pressed to find many media pundits who have the Buffalo Sabres in their Stanley Cup finals predictions (I've got Washington coming out of the East). So, what gives? Why no national buzz for a Sabres team that essentially went wire to wire in winning the Northeast Division en route to a 100-point season?

"That's kind of what we want, to come in and surprise teams," Sabres center Derek Roy told ESPN.com on Tuesday night.

There's apparently not a great deal of buzz for the Sabres in their own backyard, reports my colleague, sports columnist Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News.

I arrived in Buffalo on Wednesday on the eve of the Boston-Buffalo playoff opener at HSBC Arena and look forward to seeing it for myself; Buffalo fans were pumped for the Sabres clubs that came out of the lockout and went to back-to-back conference finals.

I'm not changing my pick; I still like the Caps to come out of the East. But let's give the Sabres a little love here. They have the best goalie in the NHL this season in Ryan Miller, the top rookie and a future Norris Trophy winner in Tyler Myers, a perennial Jack Adams Award candidate in coach Lindy Ruff, a balanced offense that produced the ninth-most goals in the league this season and a defense that gave up the fourth-fewest.

What's not to like?

"We've tried to keep an even keel all year long and not let the highs get too high and the lows get too low," said Roy, who led the Sabres with 69 points (26-43) in 80 games. "We've had a consistent season, and we're trying to bring that into the playoffs."

The offense produced this season despite getting only a 28-goal season from former 40-goal man Thomas Vanek and a disappointing 34-point campaign from Drew Stafford (who might miss Game 1 with a concussion). Balance is the key to this offense, Roy said.

"I'd say we pretty much play all four lines more than any other team in the league," he said. "We roll four lines really well. We get everyone playing and get everyone in the game. That shows how deep we are, and that's going to be important at playoff time. Everybody feels rested and ready to go, and we're going to need a different hero every night. Everyone has to step up."

A different hero every night. I like the way Roy said that. Because that is the rich history of NHL playoff hockey, isn't it? The Sabres certainly know that. The Bruins and Sabres have had some memorable playoff moments in the old Adams Division days; my favorite is the Brad May OT goal in 1993.

"I've seen that highlight a few times in the Buffalo area," Roy said. "It was a pretty big goal at the time and a very nice goal, too."

Roy was 10 years old, growing up in Ottawa, when May scored that goal. Watching the playoffs on "Hockey Night in Canada" was a big deal in the Roy household.

"I remember growing up watching the playoffs," Roy said. "We were a big hockey family, and it was certainly on. I have one younger and one older brother, and we'd be always sitting around watching those games."

Now, the Sabres' leading scorer has a chance to be a hero himself, and perhaps help his Sabres get a little more respect around North America.

The Boston Bruins didn't win the draft lottery Tuesday night, but they may still get the player they want when all is said and done June 25 in Los Angeles.

That's if, and I stress if, the Edmonton Oilers draft by need.

Tyler Seguin is a center. Taylor Hall is a winger.

The Oilers, who won the No. 1 overall pick, need a lot of things, but nothing more so than a bona-fide stud down the middle, one who could play between first-line wingers Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner. Enter Seguin.

The Bruins, who have the No. 2 selection, are set at center with Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, but are seriously lacking when it comes to big-time offensive talent on the wing. Enter Hall.

Unless, of course, the Oilers' scouting staff and GM Steve Tambellini ultimately conclude Hall is simply the better player and can't pass him up. That could very well happen.

"I think first, you have to be careful about drafting for your current status, you have to be careful about drafting for your current needs," Tambellini told ESPN.com on Tuesday night before hopping on a Toronto-to-Edmonton flight. "When I meet with our staff, I want to hear about who is the best player now and who is the player that is projected to be the best."

So if the Oilers believe Hall is better, they'll take him. But if they think it's a dead heat between the two kids, they'll likely take Seguin with the added bonus that he plays center. We'll see.

NHL Central Scouting rated Seguin ahead of Hall in its final rankings, but both ESPN.com's Gare Joyce and TSN's Bob McKenzie have Hall over Seguin.

Fact is, the universal belief in scout land is it's really a flip of a coin. I asked Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli on Tuesday night where he stood on Hall and Seguin.

"I myself have a preference, but I know talking to our [scouting] staff, they flip-flop, they're undecided," Chiarelli said during a media conference call. "They are so close that I'd be very, very content with the other one depending on who Edmonton picked. I'm excited that we're in this slot. I'd be very excited to get either one of these players."

What's clear is it's Hall/Seguin at the top, and then everybody else. Boston didn't move down in the lottery Tuesday night, so it doesn't have to worry about everybody else.

"We're going to get Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, who are both very good, impactful offensive forwards," said Chiarelli.

If the Oilers take Hall and the Bruins are left with Seguin, that's no big loss. If it's another center, so be it, especially someone of the quality Seguin is projected to have.

"He can play all three forward positions," pointed out Chiarelli. "He's a natural center, but he's skilled enough and fast enough to play both wings."

How good is Seguin?

"He's got dynamic speed and playmaking ability," said the Bruins GM. "I've said before that he's a cross between a [Steven] Stamkos and a [Pat] LaFontaine. I understand that's pretty lofty company, but he's a terrific young offensive player."

Hall has been a terror in this spring's OHL playoffs, scoring nine goals in eight games.

"Taylor Hall is bigger and heavier, he plays a more prototypical power forward type of game," said Chiarelli. "He has a good one-timer. He really likes to drive the net. He really protects the puck well. Seguin is probably a little quicker, but Hall is a very powerful skater. He's a natural winger who can play both sides."

So, either way, the Bruins cash in big-time on a trade that was really forced on them last summer, when Phil Kessel was dealt to Toronto for a pair of first-round picks (2010 and 2011) and a second-rounder (2010).

If you're a Leafs fan, Tuesday's lottery was obviously tough to stomach. If I was a Leafs fan, I could live with Kessel in exchange for Seguin or Hall straight up. All three will have dynamic careers. What's tough to digest is if the Bruins get yet another lottery pick a year from now. There's enormous pressure on Toronto GM Brian Burke to ensure his team won't be in this spot again next season.

Does Burke regret the trade? Nope.

"I would do it again tomorrow," Burke told ESPN.com on Thursday. Believe me when I say he really means that.

Burke will be reminded of the trade again June 25 at Staples Center, when Hall or Seguin puts on a Bruins jersey. Unless, of course, Boston trades that valuable pick.

"In all likelihood I won't be trading this pick," said Chiarelli.

Chiarelli has the easy job come draft day: Pick the player Edmonton passed over. But the Oilers were thrilled to get the first pick. They'll deal with the pressure of deciding which player they want.

"People ask me if it would be better to get the second pick [to take the decision out of it]. My answer is no chance," said Tambellini. "You want to be able to control that decision going into the draft. We're thrilled."

The night began with Matt Cooke getting booed every time he was on the ice. It ended with boos directed at any Bruin on the ice.

If one game can sum up Boston's miserable season, this was it.

The "big rematch" is over. Cooke is still alive. No Bruin was stupid enough to try to take Sidney Crosby's head off as some in New England had hoped to see. And yes, Cooke paid for his sins.

Just 1:58 into this much-ballyhooed game, the Pittsburgh Penguins winger accepted an invitation from dance partner Shawn Thornton of the Bruins … an unfair matchup given the size difference, but hey, Cooke should have thought of that before he ended Marc Savard's season March 7.

Given the difference in weight classes, I give Cooke credit. He manned up big time and accepted his medicine, a one-sided tilt won easily by Thornton.

The question after that fight was whether it would be enough. Six years ago in Vancouver, when Cooke was beat up by Steve Moore, it certainly was not. The Canucks were so incensed that Moore had forgotten to lose the fight that they got back at him for it. But let's not revisit that sordid evening.

Thank goodness, however, Cooke didn't somehow manage to win his fight with the bigger Thornton. That would have been bedlam. Such is life in this sport I love so much yet which leaves me scratching my head sometimes … the code, the rules, etc. Had Cooke won his fight with Thornton, we would've been looking at an ugly mess Thursday night. Thankfully, he didn't, and the licking from Thornton pretty much defused the situation.

Sure, Zdeno Chara and Mike Rupp also dropped the gloves halfway through the second period. This fight, in my mind, had nothing to do with avenging anything from March 7; this was the captain trying to wake up his slumbering team. It didn't work.

The Bruins lost 3-0 to the Penguins as their post-Olympic funk continued; Boston is 4-5-1 since the break and is lucky as heck the teams chasing it for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East have been just as mediocre. Case in point, after the New York Rangers' 4-3 home loss against the St. Louis Blues and the Atlanta Thrashers' 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta is now ninth, tied with the Rangers with 71 points (but with a game in hand) and three points behind Boston for eighth. No one deserves the eighth seed in the East!

The theory heading into Thursday's rematch was that perhaps some sort of wild night of fights might bring this Bruins team together and galvanize the moribund club just in time for a playoff push. It was a nice thought, but there was no way flying fists were going to fix the fact this team hasn't been able to score all season and even less so with its top center out of the lineup.

Remember the Montreal Canadiens' tumble from Eastern Conference champions in 2007-08 to embarrassing first-round fodder one season later? That's the same script these Bruins are following. Will they make the playoffs? Perhaps, but only to extend their season by one week. This is a season to forget in Beantown, and no amount of bloodletting Thursday night was going to alleviate the inevitable.

The show's over, folks. Move on.

More on Wisniewski

I was on Bob Murray's media call Thursday night (in fact, he was talking to us while Cooke and Thornton were dropping 'em), and thought the Anaheim Ducks GM had some great insight on his player James Wisniewski's suspension.

He's all for the NHL and league disciplinarian Colin Campbell coming down hard on head shots. But let's have justice across the board. Well said, Mr. Murray.

"[Wisniewski] crossed the line, he's got to get whacked, I have no problem with that, I support Colie," Murray said . "His job is a tough job, it's not easy, but let's make it equal across the board. Whether it's a fourth-line player or first-line player, whether the player plays on the East Coast or the West Coast. Don't forget, what's the last suspension of eight games or more here, guys? Chris Pronger here in Anaheim. Let's just get it all across the board and make sure it's even."

I also chuckled when Murray responded to the comments from Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who on Wednesday night called the hit one of the most dangerous in league history.

"I played in Chicago for a long time, I lived in the city of Chicago. It used to be a black-and-blue town; it didn't have whiners," the Ducks GM said. "I strongly suggest Joel worries about his goaltending and stops trying to run the National Hockey League. He should worry about coaching."

Zing!

The tension is building ahead of Thursday's rematch between the Bruins and Penguins in Boston, but it's the kind of buzz the NHL doesn't enjoy too much.

Bruins star center Marc Savard is likely done for the season, and the player who decked him, the Penguins' Matt Cooke, escaped suspension.

Just what are we in store for Thursday night? One Bruins source e-mailed me Friday and said given the ongoing legal issues still associated with the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident six years ago, he wanted no part of that kind of situation. And that's exactly the message NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell will have for both teams when he talks with them this week ahead of the game, reminding them of that Vancouver-Colorado incident and the ensuing mess.

Campbell, by the way, will be on hand in Boston on Thursday, along with Terry Gregson, the NHL's director of officiating. As of Saturday, it wasn't clear whether NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would be there or not.

Cooke himself phoned Campbell on Friday, wanting clarification on just what exactly is a legal hit. I'm told Campbell warned Cooke that he's got a very short leash going forward.

As for Savard's status, it doesn't sound good.

"No improvement," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Saturday.

Savard is still sensitive to light and has pounding headaches -- classic symptoms of a long and serious concussion. Chiarelli reiterated Savard is likely done for the season.

By the way, Pittsburgh and Boston could easily meet in a 2-versus-7 playoff matchup. How dramatic would that be?

But it's because of that very playoff race I suspect Bruins players will have to control themselves in some fashion Thursday night. They need the two points.

The future of the All-Star Game

The NHL is thinking long and hard about coming up with a better concept for the mundane All-Star Game, which we were spared this season thanks to the Olympics.

One idea floating around in the NHL head office is to somehow give an international hockey feel to feed off the Vancouver experience, possibly staging some form of a mini World Cup. I stress this is very conceptual at this point, but still interesting nonetheless.

Speaking of international hockey, I'm told the Russians have recently approached Hockey Canada about staging a Summit Series in 2012 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the '72 classic. The Russians also want it to be best on best, so it would be Sidney Crosby & Co. versus Alex Ovechkin & Co. Of course, the NHL and NHL Players' Association would have to sign off on it, and I'm not sure there's an appetite for it at this point.

What about USA Hockey and Hockey Canada getting together with the NHL and NHLPA to do some form of series with top players? Given the recent gold-medal game in Vancouver, why not capitalize on the burgeoning rivalry between Team USA and Team Canada? Food for thought.

Plekanec and the Habs

The Habs and Tomas Plekanec's agent, Rick Curran, continue to talk, and all signs point to the Czech center likely staying put instead of hitting the unrestricted free-agent market July 1.

"We continue to have positive conversations ... not likely to finalize any agreement until after the season has completed," Curran told ESPN.com via e-mail Saturday.

I suspect the Habs need to create some cap space after the season before fitting in any new deal for Plekanec, but it does sound like the Canadiens will likely retain him.

The competition committee

There will be changes on the NHL side of the competition committee. Kevin Lowe and Bob Gainey, both no longer GMs, will be formally replaced in time for the group's next meeting in June, an NHL source told ESPN.com on Saturday.

Lowe actually hasn't taken part for a year, as Devils GM Lou Lamoriello sat in for him a few times last season. But now, the league will make official changes after Gainey stepped down as Montreal GM. However, Thrashers GM Don Waddell and Predators GM David Poile will be kept on for another year, the source said. The replacements for Lowe and Gainey have not yet been determined, but one will be a Western Conference GM and the other an Eastern Conference GM.

The numbers are so startling in their contrast, one swears it can't be possible since nearly all the players are wearing the same uniform.

What has happened to the Boston Bruins' offense this season is nothing short of stunning. I know, I know -- injuries are the biggest reason for it. But to go from the second-rated NHL offense to dead last in the NHL over 11 months -- by nearly a full goal per game -- is unbelievable.

"It's a big change from being around here last year to this year," star Bruins winger Milan Lucic told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "It's something that we've had to battle through all year. It's almost like everyone is just waiting for us to break out. Even ourselves, we're kind of waiting for that. But we can't think like that. We just have to do the little things right. If you worry too much about goal scoring, that's usually when you don't score."

This is a team that scored 3.29 goals per game last season, second only to Detroit. As of Wednesday morning, the Bruins were last in the NHL at 2.32 goals per game. Last season, Boston's five-on-five goals for/against ratio -- to me, a more telling statistic since it encompasses both sides of the puck -- was the best in the NHL. Now they're 24th.

Do they really miss Phil Kessel's 36 goals that much?

"No, they've got some good players over there," Kessel, who was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs before the start of the season, told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Obviously, me and Savvy and Lucic had a lot of chemistry last year. We created quite a bit. But they have guys who can make up for it over there, but I guess right now they're just not doing it."

Savvy, a.k.a. Marc Savard, is out indefinitely with a Grade 2 concussion, and what was already an uphill climb just got a lot tougher. The No. 1 center and most creative player on the team may not be back this season. The Bruins are hanging on to their playoff lives and can't score a goal. So, what now? They opened the post-Savard stretch with a 4-3 overtime loss at woeful Toronto on Tuesday night.

"We've had guys in and out all year, it just seems like that's how it's gone," said winger Michael Ryder. "But it's really tough when you lose a key guy like Savvy. He's a big part of this team. Right now, it's just a matter of the rest of us trying to pick up the slack. It's not going to be easy, but we have to grind it out."

It's not just the loss of Kessel and the massive injury list, but it's also a number of players having down seasons. From Lucic to Ryder to David Krejci to Zdeno Chara, and even Savard before he got hurt again, most of Boston's key players have had disappointing seasons offensively. Add it all up, and you've got a season from hell in the goals department. The Bruins don't have a scorer in the top 100, let alone among the league leaders.

"It's definitely been a struggle to find the back of the net this year. I know for me personally, too, and it definitely gets frustrating at times," said Ryder, whose 15 goals are way down from the 27 he scored last season. "But we have to find ways. We just have to get pucks at the end and forget the pretty plays. We can't squeeze the sticks, we all know how to put the puck in the net. It's just a matter of us relaxing when we have the puck there and not panicking."

Somehow, despite all that, the Bruins have 17 games left to salvage their season and make the playoffs. On Wednesday morning, they sat three points clear of the danger zone in the East. There's a sense in the Bruins' dressing room that reaching the postseason, especially with Savard out, will be a decent accomplishment.

"We have to do our best to find a way to fight through that adversity," said Lucic. "If we can find a way to do that, I think it's going to make us stronger."

"We've had troubles with scoring this year, no question, but I don't want to talk about that," said Krejci. "If you make the playoffs, then nobody cares how many goals you score. It's just about winning."

The coach is safe, the GM is working the phones for a trade and the Boston Bruins can't score.

There's your daily update from Beantown in a nutshell, folks.

Let's start with coach Claude Julien, whose job status suddenly has come under scrutiny with his team mired in a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) and sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference as of Wednesday morning, one point out of a playoff spot.

"I was asked this morning if his job was in jeopardy, and my response was, 'No, it's never even entered my mind,'" Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "We have to improve as a team, we have to improve as a management team, we have to improve as a coaching staff, and that's what we're going to do."

The Bruins finished first in the Eastern Conference last season and reached the second round of the playoffs. Expectations were sky high entering this season. But the injury-riddled team has struggled mightily to score goals, sitting last in the NHL with an average of 2.37 goals per game.

"I'm disappointed," Chiarelli said. "You look at the team, you look at going into the year, and obviously I expected to do much better. There's still 30 games left, and we have to make hay with the sun shining right now. It's so tight in the standings that if you win four, five in a row, you're back in it. That's exactly what Ottawa [winner of seven straight] has done.

"It's incumbent on the players to play better, because they haven't played well enough," continued Chiarelli. "By the same token, it may be that we need some tweaks ... and the coaching staff has to get more out of the players. What I'm saying is, it's everybody's fault. Let's man up and get this thing right."

In the meantime, Chiarelli confirmed he's working the phones trying to make a deal ahead of the Feb. 12 Olympic roster freeze and March 3 trade deadline.

"I'm looking every year [to make trades] but maybe more so this year because of the way we performed," Chiarelli said. "Having said all that, we want to be in the playoffs and we want to succeed in the playoffs."

The Bruins have plenty of ammunition at their disposal in trade talks. They have nine draft picks in the first two rounds over the next two years, including a pair of first-rounders courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade in September (Toronto sent over a first-rounder for both 2010 and 2011). Some of those picks are in play.

"But I can tell you one thing -- I'm not trading Toronto's pick [for this year]," Chiarelli said. "I am not trading it. That pick is too valuable."

The Leafs are 28th in the overall standings, so that asset looks more like a lottery pick, which could wind up being the first overall selection.

While Chiarelli refused to discuss any specific names, another NHL source told ESPN.com that the Bruins are very much in the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, along with Los Angeles in particular. While Vancouver, Philadelphia and Chicago also have reported interest, it appears the Bruins and Kings are the front-runners at this point.

But will anyone pay the price? The Thrashers, I'm told, are looking for a package that includes a first-round pick, a prospect and a player from the NHL roster. Kovalchuk is an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The Bruins next play Friday at Buffalo before hosting Los Angeles on Saturday.