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Kalman: Competition For Jobs Could Come Just In Time For Bruins

By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
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Jaromir Jagr (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jaromir Jagr (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – Coach Claude Julien’s several effort to juggle his lines and power-play units hasn’t done it.

The arrival of Jaromir Jagr, who’s set an amazing example for everyone by making the most of every second he’s been on the ice despite his 41 years on this Earth, hasn’t done it.

So now we’ll find out if Carl Soderberg’s arrival on North American soil can finally light a fire under some of the Bruins’ best forwards.

No, I’m not expecting Soderberg to pull on a Bruins sweater and turn into the second coming of Peter Forsberg. I’m just wondering if maybe the competition his arrival and Patrice Bergeron’s return will create will make the likes of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton finally assert themselves with some urgency.

Because if you watched the Bruins’ ugly 4-2 loss to Carolina Saturday night, you know something has to happen here to shake up this team with just seven games remaining before the playoffs. Boston lost its second straight, and did it against a team that improved to just 2-13-1 in its last 16 games.

Lucic was credited with a goal, just his second in his last 26 games. The puck off Matt Bartkowski’s stick didn’t touch Lucic’s stick, but eluded goaltender Justin Peters. The goal didn’t turn Lucic’s season from hell around, as he was a turnover machine the rest of the night and only had one more shot on net.

Nathan Horton was invisible again, with a minus-2 rating and just one shot on net. The lackluster efforts of those two, plus some defensive breakdowns and one weak goal allowed by Tuukka Rask made Peters look like Cam Ward in net and wasted Jagr’s five-shot night, which included an assist and nearly 22 minutes of ice time. The Bruins’ power play, sans Lucic, also looked impressive, as did young forward Jordan Caron, who finished with four shots on net in just 13:47 of ice time.

Perhaps Caron was already hearing the footsteps from Sweden, as Soderberg’s coming here to take someone’s job, not just check out the Freedom Trail. The calls for a scratch for Lucic and/or Horton in recent weeks have been preposterous. With only Jay Pandolfo healthy, Julien has had no choice but to keep his underperforming would-be power forwards in the lineup.

But options are opening up. The timeline isn’t set yet, but this week Bergeron and Soderberg should become available. Brad Marchand, who also struggled before he suffered a concussion, might not be far behind. Caron has played well enough on several different lines and on the power play to get a longer look.

If the competition doesn’t inspire a turnaround, we might eventually see some lineup changes in the regular season’s final two weeks. Whether a change in personnel would improve the Bruins is debatable. It’s unlikely, however, their offense could get much worse.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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