Toothless Bruins

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Joe Thornton has been beating himself up the past couple of days and figures he needs only to look in the mirror to find the person who will most help the Boston Bruins climb out of a slump.

"I think it definitely starts with me," the Bruins captain said after another strenuous on-ice workout at the Bruins' practice rink in this leafy village 20 miles north of Boston. "I have to play better and if I do, the whole team plays better."

Thornton publicly called himself out for the second day in a row, but truth be told, he has been no slouch.

The 26-year-old was eighth in NHL scoring before last night's games with 27 points (seven goals and 20 assists) and was a plus-1. But what matters most to him is the Bruins' recent poor play, a skid in which they've won four of their past 14 games.

In an NHL where divisional matches are worth so much more because clubs play each other eight times, the Bruins are logging worrisome numbers. Overall, they're 7-7-3-2 (or 7-12), but within the Northeast, they've won once in eight games. Before last night, the only other NHL outfit with just one win in its own division was the St. Louis Blues.

The Bruins' lone victory against a Northeast foe was at the TD Banknorth Garden against the Maple Leafs, who did not have Mats Sundin, on Oct. 27.

"Joe tries to keep the spirits up, but it's a team game and everyone has to come together," said former Leafs prospect Brad Boyes, who has 10 points in 19 games despite averaging just over 10 minutes of ice time a game.

The Bruins have not played since losing their third in a row, 5-2 to the New York Islanders, on Saturday. But the Bruins have not had conventional off-days. Coach Mike Sullivan has pushed them hard, and went so far as to have two on-ice sessions on Tuesday. That's almost unheard of in today's NHL.

Sullivan agreed his team has underachieved as it hits the quarter-pole of the regular season tonight.

"We have to become a more difficult team to play against," Sullivan said. "What makes you hard to play against is your competition and your intelligence. Everyone has to be better, it's as simple as that."

Thornton signed a three-year, $20-million US deal in August and wants nothing more than to get on track.

"I'm responsible for this team running smooth and getting wins, and it's up to me to get the guys going," Thornton said.


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