The Bruins’ third line has not performed to expectations. On Thursday, Chris Bourque suffered the consequences of the line’s shortcomings.
The Bruins placed the left wing on waivers. Any team can claim Bourque by noon on Friday. If Bourque clears, it’s likely the Bruins will assign him to Providence. Bourque is in the first season of a two-year, $1.1 million contract. He will be on a one-way deal in 2013-14.
The Bruins acquired Bourque from Washington for Zach Hamill last May. The Bruins projected Bourque to mesh with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley on the third line because of his skill and hockey sense. Bourque was also most recently on the point on the No. 2 power-play unit.
But Bourque struggled with his consistency at both ends. In 18 games, Bourque had one goal and three assists while averaging 12:04 of ice time. In Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime loss, Bourque was on the ice for two Washington goals.
“We’re certainly hoping not to lose him,” said coach Claude Julien. “It doesn’t mean his time here is over. He knows that it took a little bit of time to find his game. It was coming around a little bit. He knows that his last game wasn’t the best, either. But when you look at the way he played in Providence, he’s certainly a guy you can’t count off your lineup here. Right now, it could be just a bump along the way. If we needed a guy to be called up, he’s certainly a guy I would have no issues seeing back here.”
On Thursday against Toronto, Jay Pandolfo replaced Bourque on the third line, and was minus-1 in 11:42 of ice time in the 4-2 win. Pandolfo had played primarily on the fourth line in his three previous games.
Pandolfo is likely a fill-in. The Bruins have been targeting the No. 3 left wing position as an area to upgrade via the trade market. That will not change prior to the April 3 deadline. It is their highest priority along with defensive depth.
TSN noted the Bruins could finally land Carl Soderberg. The Bruins acquired the Swedish forward from St. Louis for Hannu Toivonen on July 23, 2007. Soderberg has been reluctant to report to the NHL, especially if AHL seasoning were required.
Soderberg, a left-shot forward, has scored 31 goals and 29 assists in 54 games for Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League, and would participate in the Swedish playoffs before joining the Bruins.
The Bruins could also look internally. Jordan Caron has a goal in each of his last two games for Providence. Caron had initially been a candidate for the third line but was unavailable because of a shoulder injury to start the NHL season.
The Bruins could also consider Ryan Spooner. The first-year pro leads Providence with 10 goals and 30 assists in 44 games. Spooner also could center the third line, moving Kelly to left wing.
Daniel Paille has played several games with Kelly and Peverley. But the Bruins were pleased with Paille’s play on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton against the Capitals. They would prefer to keep the fourth line intact.
“Our fourth line played their best game probably in a year and a half the last game in Washington,” said coach Claude Julien. “They were a real factor. I thought they had some great scoring chances with O-zone time and everything else. If they can continue to play like that, then we’ve just got to hope that our third line can turn the corner here.”
Line isn’t straight
Since his arrival from Ottawa on Feb. 15, 2011, Kelly’s transition has been seamless. Kelly has won a Stanley Cup. He’s an alternate captain. He is the workhorse on the league-leading penalty kill, averaging 2:37 of shorthanded ice time per game, most among Bruins forwards.
Those accomplishments make it especially puzzling why Kelly’s game is not close to the standards set by himself and his employer.
“I wish I could put my finger on it,” Kelly said of the third line’s performance. “We need to manage the puck better and not make those crucial mistakes. They seem like they’re not a big deal at the moment, but then they tend to snowball and end up being in the back of your net.”
The No. 3 line is one of the organization’s most pressing concerns. Two years ago, one of the reasons the Bruins won the Cup was the two-way contributions of Kelly, Peverley, and Michael Ryder.
“There’s two guys in Kelly and Peverley that were great assets and big plus players last year,” said Julien. “Right now, they’re struggling to get that part of their game going. The one thing you don’t do is lose confidence in them. They’ve just got to work their way through it. That’s part of their job. It’s part of our job. We know what they’re capable of doing. Everybody in that room knows we’re capable of getting better presence from that team than we have so far.”
Kelly entered Thursday’s game with just one goal, while Peverley had three goals and three assists.
But the third line’s defensive lapses have been even more alarming. Kelly was on the ice for three of Washington’s four goals on Tuesday. The Capitals scored twice with Bourque and Peverley on the ice.
Kelly’s line didn’t score against Toronto. Even though Peverley and Pandolfo were on the ice for Jay McClement’s third-period goal, the line submitted a more reliable defensive performance.
“That line was better for me tonight,” Julien said.
Adam McQuaid logged the lone fight of the game at 3:23 of the first. He challenged Mark Fraser after the Toronto defenseman decked Pandolfo from behind. Fraser connected with more punches . . . David Krejci missed a third-period shift. Korbinian Holzer clobbered Krejci with a clean hit, briefly sending the center to the dressing room . . . Paille appeared in his 400th career game.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.