ST. PAUL - With the Feb. 27 trade deadline less than a week away, Claude Julien has been receiving updates from general manager Peter Chiarelli regarding players the Bruins could acquire.
But given the nature of trade talks and how many scenarios never come true, the Bruins coach is treating his GM’s information with coolness instead of anticipation.
Julien could use some help. He is without two of his top three right wings in Nathan Horton (concussion) and Rich Peverley (sprained knee). But for now, Julien is leaning on the men he has instead of players who might never wear Black and Gold.
“My job right now is to do the best I can with what we’ve got here,’’ Julien said. “If something gets done, you insert this player in and make the most of it. But I certainly won’t hang my coat on that and say, ‘OK, let’s just work through this until we can get some help.’ I don’t think anybody in that dressing room expects it. Neither do I. We’re a good enough team to be way better than we are. We’ve seen it. A couple injuries happen. Then we lost our rhythm and pace of our game. We’ve just got to find it back again. Every year, we’ve gone through it. Every year, we’ve gotten out of it. It’s not about assuming we’ll get out of it. It’s about working our way out of it.’’
Chiarelli doesn’t have the ammunition he wielded last year. The Bruins had Joe Colborne, a potential top-two center, developing in Providence. Chiarelli had two 2011 first-rounders and two second-round picks. The Bruins sent one of their first-rounders to Toronto with Colborne as part of the Tomas Kaberle trade. They swapped one of their second-rounders to Ottawa for Chris Kelly.
This year, there is nobody in Providence who projects to be a top-six forward or top-four defenseman. The Bruins lost their 2012 second-rounder as a condition of the Kaberle trade. The Bruins are not willing to give up Dougie Hamilton, their ace blue line prospect.
So that’s why Julien isn’t depending on his GM to provide the players he needs. Instead, he’ll adjust his lines, like he did against Minnesota Sunday. In the third period of the 2-0 loss, David Krejci moved to right wing to make room for Kelly. Krejci, Kelly, and Milan Lucic responded by creating better looks on Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
“I thought they responded well,’’ Julien said. “I thought they did some good things. There’s a good chance we may go back with that. We’ve got a couple days to look at things here and make those decisions.’’
For most of the last two seasons, the Bruins have been blessed with sturdy bones, sound heads, and taut muscles. Lately, they haven’t been as lucky.
The Bruins are 4-7-0 in the 11 games they’ve been without Horton, their shoot-first right wing. Peverley has only missed the last two games. The Bruins lost both of those matches.
As much as the Bruins have missed their contributions, the trickledown effect - Benoit Pouliot skating more shifts, Josh Hennessy thrown into action - has also impacted the club’s approach.
“It’s disrupted our lines and our chemistry,’’ Julien said of being without Horton and Peverley. “We’ve had to move players around. That’s been a challenge in itself. You’ve still got to overcome those things. It’s not an excuse. It’s the reality. We’re still a better team than to be shut out like we have lately.’’
Horton is a go-to offensive force and a power-play regular. But Peverley touches the game in more areas. Julien could use Peverley at center and on either wing. He could move him up and down the lineup. After Patrice Bergeron, Peverley is the team’s most important all-around forward.
“To have one of your top-six out is one thing. To have two is another,’’ Julien said. “When you’re struggling, it’s hard to get those combinations in the right direction. It just doesn’t seem like pucks are going in right now. There’s frustration. If you’re playing well and you run into those injuries, the team’s going in the right direction and you have the confidence to continue to move on. But those injuries are coming at a time when we’re trying to find our game. It’s kind of snowballed and making things a little tougher.’’
The Bruins recalled Carter Camper from Providence yesterday. The first-year pro is expected to practice today with the club at the Scottrade Center.
This is Camper’s first NHL recall. The 5-foot-9-inch, 173-pound Camper is Providence’s leading scorer. The right-shot center has 14 goals and 24 assists in 53 games. The 23-year-old Camper is considered a clever if undersized pivot with good hands and hockey sense.
The Bruins signed Camper as a free agent April 7, 2011. Camper was a four-year star at Miami University. As a senior in 2010-11, he scored 19 goals and had 38 assists and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
The Bruins traveled from St. Paul to St. Louis yesterday morning but did not practice. “I sense there’s a lot of weight on their shoulders right now,’’ Julien said. “You can feel it. It’s heavy. I don’t know that just practicing is going to make a difference. I know our guys are a little tired as well. It’s that time of year where you get that way.’’ . . . Shawn Thornton tangled with Matt Kassian in a lengthy scrap Sunday. Yesterday, Thornton was bearing the aftermath of the fight on his forehead. Thornton could have more rough stuff awaiting him tomorrow. The Blues’ Ryan Reaves has logged 76 penalty minutes. Reaves most recently fought Chicago’s John Scott and Nashville’s Brian McGrattan, two of the league’s behemoths . . . The Blues have a 26-3-4 record at the Scottrade Center. St. Louis is tied with Detroit for the most home wins in the league. “If we go into that game with the same kind of weight we have on our shoulders lately, it might be a tough night,’’ Julien said. “Somehow we’ve got to take that weight off our shoulders, just go out there and play, and give it all you’ve got. You might be surprised at what you can come out with. Sometimes a good opponent and going out there with that attitude can make a lot of good things happen.’’