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Bruins' power play needs Kaberle to produce

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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Now, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of Tomas Kaberle.

The slick, puck-moving defenseman was brought to the Bruins in late February to give Boston more punch on its power play. Things, however, have not worked out as anyone hoped so far.

They will have to get better in the postseason, which starts Thursday night with Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against rival Montreal at TD Garden.

In the 24 games since Kaberle arrived, Boston has managed just 7 goals in 67 man-advantage opportunities. Certainly an anemic 10-percent success rate is not exactly what Boston GM Peter Chiarelli or Bruins coach Claude Julien had in mind when the primary trade deadline target landed in their dressing room.

Both believe Kaberle can still make a huge return on the investment the Bruins made at the trade deadline, sending top prospect Joe Colborne, their 2012 first-round pick and a provisional second-round pick to the Maple Leafs in return for the 33-year-old.

They acknowledge Kaberle has not been great since his arrival. He has just 1 goal and 9 points in 24 games. Just three of those points -- all assists -- have come on the man advantage; a serious drop-off in production after he compiled 22 power-play assists with Toronto this season. 

"Despite our statistical woes on the power play, I thought in the last few games we played better," Chiarelli said. "We've moved the puck a lot better and I liked what we're seeing there. And that's obviously a scenario we have to be good at it to have success in the playoffs."

In fact, the Bruins are not shy about admitting it could be the difference that separates these bitter division rivals during the course of a long series. Montreal can be deadly on the power play and offense will be at a premium on both sides with top-tier goalies Tim Thomas and Carey Price entering the postseason at the top of their respective games.

"This is a team that we're playing that played good on the power play," Julien said. "They've had success, and we've got to stay out of the box as best we can."

And capitalize with far more frequency when Montreal finds itself in the penalty box.

Therefore, it is not much of a surprise that power-play work has been the main focus of both Tuesday and Wednesday's practices at Ristuccia Arena, the final two tune-ups before Game 1 arrives.

Kaberle remains confident he can bring the results for which he was acquired.

He points to the fact that he is more comfortable with the Bruins' system, which is more disciplined and stresses more zone-defense coverage than the system he has played in Toronto for more than a decade.

"It took a few days to learn the system and get to know each other on the defense," Kaberle said. "I feel comfortable now. It's good to have a few days before the first (playoff) game. Obviously, everybody is watching video these days and you get everything on computers. So we just have to make sure we play our game and do what has been successful all year."

Despite his recent struggles, success is also fueling Kaberle's confidence. During his time with Toronto, he always found a way to score against the Canadiens, it seemed.

"I don't know the answer to that, maybe the rivalry gives you an extra boost," Kaberle said.

 

Well, the rivalry between Boston and Montreal -- especially this season -- could only be termed as super-charged.

Plus, Kaberle has always taking a liking to the postseason. Earlier in his career with Toronto, he made it there in six straight seasons, registering 6 goals and 28 points in 77 games.

Can he recapture that magic?

"I think so; it's been a while," he said. "I will have to look back at some tapes. Obviously, you want to be at your best. That's what you play the whole season for, when playoffs start. It's not going to be anything pretty out there. Basic hockey, fast, grinding hockey and go to the net."

The Bruins also believe that Kaberle will recapture his early-season form. He will have to if they hope to get a return on their investment and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

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