WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Boston Bruins leave the mass hysteria surrounding their 1-3-0 start to the regular season behind as they head out on their first multicity road trip of the 2014-15 season.
After Bruins coach Claude Julien conducted a practice that lasted an hour and a half Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena, the team departed for a three-game road trip through Detroit, Montreal and Buffalo. After opening the season with three of the first four games on home ice, playing the Red Wings and Canadiens in hostile environments could shake the Bruins out of their funk. Road games are gritty, and the Bruins will need to play that heavy style to start winning.
After beating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in the season opener, the Bruins have dropped three straight to the Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche. During Julien's tenure in Boston, the Bruins have prided themselves on starting the season strong, so this is unacceptable.
"Our record is pretty bad -- 1-3," top-line center David Krejci said. "Last game, I thought we played a decent game and we'll build on that and if we play like that [Wednesday] we'll put some pucks in the net and we'll come out with the win.
"We have to crash the net and get a win. It's a bad record, but this road trip could help us get back on track and we're looking forward to it."
Being outscored 9-4 in the first four games of the season, the Bruins need more offensive production, so Julien and his coaching staff conducted a drill with the defensemen during Tuesday's practice in which cones were set up a few feet inside the blue line. The defensemen had to receive a pass, move laterally and get the puck on net without hitting a cone. At the other end of the ice, the forwards were working on net-front battles. The drills were designed to get pucks on net and traffic in front of the opposing goaltender.
"We've got to get a better nose for the net," Julien said. "Too much, probably, perimeter plays and right now our decision-making is one that's pressing. We're forcing a lot of plays versus just making those plays. Sometimes throwing pucks at the net -- it hits bodies and goes in.
"Teams defend so well nowadays that it's not easy to score goals. You've got to be willing to be part of those dirty goals that are being scored and not always the highlight ones. The highlight ones are a lot less than the dirty ones, as far as the amount scored, so we've got to be willing to do that, and right now that's where we've got to get a little bit better. Instead of looking to the outside, let's look to the inside and get some of those pucks to the net a little bit more."
In order to help in that department, the Bruins signed veteran forward Simon Gagne to a one-year contract worth $600,000. The 34-year-old hasn't played in an NHL game since April 2013, and the Bruins are hopeful Gagne will find his speed and regain his scoring touch. He progressed during training camp as a non-roster invitee, and although he still hasn't shown if he can be the player he once was, the Bruins believe they've seen enough and that Gagne can help right now.
Gagne will start at right wing on the fourth line, with Ryan Spooner at center and Daniel Paille on the left side. Boston's fourth line has a different look from the past few seasons with Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Campbell is sidelined with a mid-core injury and there's no timetable for his return; Thornton signed with the Florida Panthers as a free agent last July. In the past, Julien had confidence in his energy line, but for now he's still experimenting.
"You've got a different look on the fourth line; Spooner is not Campbell and Gagne, for example, is not Thornton," Julien said. "Right there you've got two guys that probably have more speed, more skill right now. It's a different kind of a look, but it doesn't mean we don't want that other look, either. Right now we're looking at that and you hope they can hold their own. You've got two experienced guys on each side, and you've got a young guy that has a lot of potential in the middle, so we have to see how that turns out."
At the start of the season, Julien had Paille, Spooner and career minor-league pugilist Bobby Robins as the last unit. With the signing of Gagne, Robins was assigned to Providence of the AHL. If needed, the Bruins can recall Robins, and Julien admitted that could be the case moving forward.
"We just felt there are certain players we need to keep here," Julien said. "He's a guy we can easily call up and he always has a great attitude. He's going to go down, work hard and when we call him up he'll be excited to be here."
In Monday's loss to the Avalanche, the fourth line consisted of Paille, Spooner and Jordan Caron, who also was assigned to the P-Bruins on Tuesday.
Julien has faced more lineup decisions this season than in the past and the team currently lacks the consistency that has made the Bruins successful.
"Every coach would like things to be smooth, but it's not reality," Julien said. "Some years you've got a bigger challenge than others and that's what I'm facing right now. Where we are as an organization, facing a challenge of seeing where certain guys fit, and also giving them time to fit in.
"You've got to balance those things out and what we don't want to do right now is panic because of our record. We want to fix our game, but we don't want to panic on our view of what we're trying to accomplish here as an organization."