WILMINGTON — There are players such as Tuukka Rask, who entered the All-Star break playing his best hockey of the season. In January, the Bruins goalie is 5-1-3 with a 1.63 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage.
Then there’s Reilly Smith.
The third-year pro will have gone a full month without scoring a goal when the Bruins resume post-break play Thursday against the Islanders. It is his longest drought of 2014-15.
On Dec. 29, Smith opened the scoring in a 5-2 win over Detroit. In the next 11 games, he put 20 pucks on net. None of them went in. Twice during the 11-game span, Smith didn’t record a shot, including in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia on Jan. 10 in which he played a season-low 11:10.
Smith’s shooting percentage is 9.7 percent. Last year, when Smith pumped in a career-high 20 goals, he drained 13.7 percent of his shots.
“If he was on his game, you’d see him getting a lot more chances,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re hoping he’ll find his game. We need Reilly right now.
“There’s always going to be somebody at one point that’s struggling a little bit. The sooner they find their game, the better, especially where we’re at right now.
“We’ve seen him go through that in the past. When he does find his game, he’s a pretty dangerous player and he can make a lot of things happen.”
The 23-year-old forward has not been immune to streaky play. From Nov. 12 to Dec. 2, Smith went 10 games without scoring a goal. He snapped that streak with a two-goal outburst Dec. 4 against San Jose.
Last year, 15 games ticked off the calendar without a goal off Smith’s stick. It was part of a 26-game stretch that spanned parts of January, February, March, and April in which Smith scored just one goal.
As Smith gains experience, he should be able to smooth out his peaks and valleys. But at this point of his career, he is a shooter who can go cold for double-digit segments.
“I don’t think you ever accept it,” Smith said. “You try not to get comfortable. You try and battle through it. If you accept it for a game or a couple games, you’re not playing to your potential.”
Back to work
The Bruins practiced Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena for the first time after the All-Star break. Their first practice, scheduled for Tuesday, was canceled because of the storm.
“Rest is always a good thing,” Julien said. “It’s a tough enough schedule that you go through during the season, and a tough one to finish off. I don’t think those things should hurt us. At the same time, I think it’s important that we regain the momentum we had just before the break. That has to start tomorrow.”
The Bruins did not make any lineup changes in practice. Matt Bartkowski and Jordan Caron project to be healthy scratches against the Islanders.
Rask may be busy
Rask made six straight starts before the All-Star break. He has appeared in 15 of the last 16 games, and the upcoming schedule is set up for him to get more action.
After playing the Islanders Thursday, the Bruins close out January at home against Los Angeles on Saturday. They have four games in 10 days to start February.
So even with back-to-backs at home against the Islanders and Canadiens on Feb. 7-8, Rask could start all six games before the Bruins leave for a five-game road trip, their longest of the season.
At his best
Zdeno Chara has gone four straight games without being on the ice for an opposing five-on-five goal. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos was the last opponent to turn the trick, on Jan. 13. “When you try and do too much and you haven’t gotten your game there yet, those two combined made it tough for him,” Julien said of Chara’s initial return from his knee injury. “Once he found his game, you’ve probably seen him at his best lately. He continues to do all the great things our team expects from him. He’s hard to beat. He defends well. He moves the puck well.” . . . Dougie Hamilton’s left eye is still red from a Gabriel Landeskog punch Jan. 21. It was Hamilton’s first NHL fight . . . The Islanders will be without Kyle Okposo. Their No. 1 right wing is out 6-8 weeks because of an upper-body injury. Mikhail Grabovski replaced Okposo alongside John Tavares on Wednesday and scored in a 4-1 win over the Rangers.