After opening their centennial season with back-to-back home wins, the Boston Bruins headed west and will kick off a four-game road trip Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks.
The Bruins have been off since Saturday, when they beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 for a second consecutive win that came down to the final minutes.
While goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman were sharp in their respective starts, Boston coach Jim Montgomery opted to shuffle the lines in Monday’s practice to generate more even-strength offense.
The Bruins have scored just two five-on-five goals so far this season. They tallied a pair on the power play on Saturday, both by James van Riemsdyk. Meanwhile, they killed all seven of the Predators’ power plays.
“I haven’t seen a lot of offensive five-on-five generation,” Montgomery said. “Again, small sample size, but I trust my eye behind the bench, and when I follow it up and I see it on video, I just want to try something else to get a spark.”
Most notably, 19-year-old Matthew Poitras — who logged his first NHL point in Boston’s season-opening win over the Chicago Blackhawks — has now jumped into a top-six forward role, skating on a line with captain Brad Marchand and Boston newcomer Morgan Geekie.
Poitras and Geekie had been playing together thus far. The trio with Marchand remained intact after the Bruins arrived in California and resumed practice Wednesday.
According to Marchand, the rookie is showing some impressive qualities.
“He dogs the puck,” Marchand said. “He’s not timid at all and goes to the hard areas. If he loses it, he has a second or third effort to get it back.”
In addition to van Riemsdyk’s first two goals as a Bruin, star winger David Pastrnak added his third goal in two games on an impressive penalty-shot move against the Predators.
As for the goalies, Montgomery has not committed to returning to the straight alternating pattern between the two. However, there is no doubt the strength of his team lies between the pipes.
“Especially when the schedule gets really busy, we’re definitely going to be going every other (game with them),” the second-year Boston bench boss said. “They give us a great chance every night, so it will keep them fresh.”
The 0-2-1 Sharks are still looking to crack the win column after the visiting Carolina Hurricanes rallied for four third-period goals to overtake them in a 6-3 decision on Tuesday.
Aside from losing a one-goal lead with 11 minutes left, San Jose coach David Quinn was displeased with his team’s effort for most of the night. That was not the case in the first two games.
“I don’t think we skated the way we have been,” Quinn said. “We’ve got to be way more competitive in our battles than we were (on Tuesday). We were way too puck-conscious and soft on battles.”
Fabian Zetterlund has played well on the Sharks’ fourth line, scoring his first goal and adding an assist against the Hurricanes.
“I always try to work hard, and when I do that I get rewarded,” Zetterlund said. “Tough loss (Tuesday), but we’ve just got to build and keep going.”
Tomas Hertl dished two assists, while San Jose newcomer Mackenzie Blackwood made 36 saves in his second straight start.
Quinn, whose team started 0-5-0 for the first time in franchise history last season, hopes a better effort and results will follow.
“I’m sure that weighs on guys mentally,” Quinn said. “Home, away, on a pond in the middle of America, I don’t care where we’re playing. We’ve just got to be harder to play against.”