BUFFALO - Tyler Seguin hasn’t scored a goal in eight straight games. The second-year NHLer has just one goal in his last 12 games. Yet Seguin might be playing the best hockey of his career.
Because of his speed, hands, and shot, Seguin can be one of the most lethal finishers in the league. Seguin has 20 goals, second-most on the club behind Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, who have each found the back of the net 21 times.
But what’s making Seguin a valuable contributor is his all-around game.
It’s no coincidence that Seguin, Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron have remained together while the three other lines have been jumbled recently. They have come together as Claude Julien’s all-purpose line. The three forwards are deployed just as rapidly to prevent a goal as they are when offense is required.
None of that would have been possible had Seguin not bought in to being a two-way forward.
“Really no shortcuts in his game,’’ said the Bruins coach, referring to Seguin’s performance in Wednesday’s 4-2 win over St. Louis. “At one point, you look at what the line has done. The line performed [Wednesday] night. Whether they say he hasn’t scored in X number of games, he certainly participated in our scoring. That should be just as good. I don’t look at it the same way everybody does. I’m sure he’d like to score. I’d like to see him score. At the same time, at the end of the night it’s, ‘What did you bring to the game on that specific night?’ I thought he was good.’’
Last night, Seguin ripped off five shots in 19:24 of ice time. He had one of the game’s best scoring chances. Early in the second period, Seguin intercepted a Paul Gaustad pass, then snapped a riser on goal. Ryan Miller got a piece of Seguin’s shot to knock it over the net.
The ice time reflects Julien’s confidence in the 20-year-old. In his last eight games, Seguin’s lowest ice time was 18:16 in the Bruins’ 6-0 loss to Buffalo on Feb. 8.
Last year, Julien wouldn’t have dared tab Seguin for shifts against opposing top forwards. Against the Blues, Seguin took regular shifts against St. Louis’s power line of Vladimir Sobotka, David Backes, and T.J. Oshie. All three forwards thrive on running opponents over to create their offense. Seguin helped keep them off the scoreboard, while setting up Marchand for a game-breaking breakaway in the third period.
Ready to rumble
Shawn Thornton is the Bruins’ resident enforcer, but Adam McQuaid is also game to shed the mitts, especially when Thornton isn’t 100 percent.
Thornton has been sick the last three days. He didn’t practice Thursday, and sat out Wednesday’s morning skate before playing against the Blues. Thornton has one of the hardest jobs in the league, one that’s even more challenging when he’s fighting an illness.
On Wednesday, McQuaid found himself in a tangle with St. Louis’s B.J. Crombeen after the Bruins scored the first goal. It was the game’s only fight.
“Even in Minnesota, he stepped up pretty big,’’ McQuaid said of Thornton’s fight against Matt Kassian in Sunday’s loss to the Wild. “But it wasn’t like I was going into the game thinking I’d have to do that. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about it. But the situation seems to be finding me.’’
There were no fights last night.
On the market?
According to TSN, the Kings have been accepting trade inquiries on captain Dustin Brown. The thump-first center would be in the Bruins’ wheelhouse. The 27-year-old has 15 goals and 17 assists in 61 games. Brown has 215 hits, second most in the league behind the Islanders’ Matt Martin, and is averaging 20:21 of ice time.
Brown has two years remaining on his deal with an average $3.175 million annual cap hit, according to www.capgeek.com.
If Brown is available, the Bruins might not have the package to contend. Dougie Hamilton, the club’s hot-shot blue-line prospect, is considered untouchable. The Bruins have a 2011 first-round pick, but do not have a second-rounder. There are no high-level prospects in Providence. Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight are in juniors, and will likely require at least one season of AHL play before they are ready for the NHL.
High asking prices, the scarcity of picks and prospects, and the team’s status as defending champion are three factors why the Bruins aren’t expected to be big-time dealers before Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline.
Middle of the action
Chris Kelly remained at center between Lucic and David Krejci. Kelly had a team-high six shots in 18:04 of action . . . The Bruins had four power plays and managed only two shots, one of which went in . . . Marchand was booed every time he touched the puck. He called Buffalo the worst city in the league during a radio interview Thursday . . . Former Bruin Brad Boyes didn’t play for the Sabres because of an undisclosed injury.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.