Bruins

Bruins' streak iced, but Krejci stays hot

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Bruins' streak iced, but Krejci stays hot

By MaryPaoletti
CSNNE.com
I think right now were seeing David Krejci playing the way I think we expect him to play. Its as simple as that.
-- Claude Julien, Bruins coach

BOSTON Claude Julien couldnt have been more matter-of-fact about his top centers play on Saturday night. The Bruins fell in overtime, 3-2, to the Penguins to bring an end to their seven-game win streak. But the loss came in spite of yet another strong effort by Krejci.

He kicked things off with an assist on Zdeno Charas goal to put Boston up 1-0 in the second period. And Krejcis own strike with 33 seconds left in the game forced overtime when it looked like Pittsburgh had the game locked up. The goal salvaged a point to keep the Bruins (84 points) in striking distance of Eastern Conference leader Philadelphia (86).

Its no surprise that Bostons rise in the ranks coincides with a personal streak 11 points in 9 games for Krejci.

This is something that weve talked about for a good portion of the year, is that hes capable of doing that, Julien said on Saturday. Thats the way David Krejci should play and thats what we expect out of him. Hes capable of making those plays, hes capable of seeing the ice well and his two linemates are playing pretty well also, so thats made for a pretty successful line lately.

Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton are indeed reaping the benefits of being centered by a playmaker like Krejci. Lucics two assists give him 15 points in his last 12 games; Hortons helper (on the game-tying goal) extends his point streak to five games and gives him 12 points in his last 12 contests.

The production is at least some kind of answer to the question that buzzed around the Bruins in the first week of February: How would they fare without Marc Savard?

In 2007-08, Krejci was splitting time between Boston and Providence while Savard led the Bruins in scoring. The next season, Krejci racked up 73 points in a full year with the big boys, but Savard boasted 88. So even though Savard sat for half of 2009-10 because of concussions, it was expected that when he returned to full health, he would return to the first line.

But Marc Savard never really got healthy. On February 6, the Bruins star center was shut down. Expectations for Krejci ramped up.

David, as you know in the past, has always been the key to our teams success, Julien said earlier in the week. Whether its been Patrice Bergeron or whether its been Savard thats gone down, hes picked up his game. Hes made a world of a difference for this hockey club. And he knows that. The better he plays, the better the team is, because hes that good of a player.

Krejci has scored in 9 of 12 games since Savard was shut down. His 40 assists are best for the Bruins and in the top 10 in the NHL. Hes helped Horton who had a five-game stretch without a point get into a groove.

The best part for Boston? David Krejci isnt satisfied. Despite helping Chara put the team on the board and scoring to send Saturdays game to overtime, he wanted more. His hunger is exactly what the Bs need as they dive into the final five weeks of the regular season.

I dont think we played our best game, the center said in the postgame. I am positive if we played our game, then we would win. We gave them too many shots in the first two periods. That cant happen.

Reporters flocked to Krejci in the locker room to ask about the point he stole as the clock bore down on the Bruins. But he also had to answer for the point Pittsburgh got away with.

The first line center handled the pressure deftly, as he does on the ice.

We were coming out into the third period. We kind of went all in, Krejci said. We tried to get a goal. We tried to do something. Thats what you need, is your players to step up in those situations.

Funny. Thats exactly what he has done.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

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Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

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Groin tear to sideline Bruins' Spooner for four to six weeks

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Groin tear to sideline Bruins' Spooner for four to six weeks

The Bruins have absorbed another substantial injury to their forward group with the news that Ryan Spooner will be out 4-6 weeks with a torn groin. According to sources, it was something he was playing with for some time before the right adductor muscle in his groin finally tore in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

With Spooner out of the Bruins lineup, there will be challenges to both team speed and to a power play unit that the fast-skating center was a key contributor over the last couple of seasons. Sean Kuraly was centering Tim Schaller and David Backes in Spooner’s absence during Wednesday practice, but it remains to be seen how they’ll go about filling the void for the next couple of months.

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“We’re no different than anybody else. We’d like to have our full complement [of players],” said Bruce Cassidy, when addressing the injury situation. “To be healthy and 100 percent in this league is tough, but we’d love to be there.”

Spooner was very clearly slowed by something at the start of the season with just one point and four shots on net in his first five games of the season along with a minus-2 rating, and that’s a tough development for a player like Spooner that relies on his speed and skating for much of his effectiveness at the NHL level. It will be interesting to see if Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson eventually gets a look given his fast start at the AHL Level, and the fact that Spooner is on a one-year deal that may see him playing somewhere other than Boston next season, or perhaps even following this spring’s trade deadline. 

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