Bruins

Horton, Krejci, Lucic line leading the way for Bruins

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Horton, Krejci, Lucic line leading the way for Bruins

WILMINGTON, MA Nearly everyone assumed the David KrejciMilan LucicNathan Horton forward line would jump out to a sluggish start in the slapped together 48-game regular season sprint that began last weekend.

Nearly everyone has been wrong after two games watching Krejci, Lucic and Horton pick up right where they left off after going 362 days without playing together once Horton was lost to a concussion last Jan. 22 against the Philadelphia Flyers. It's clearly helped that Horton is in healthy, smiling midseason form. But the key element is Krejci pushing the pace and creating offensive scoring chances all over the attack zone.

The slick center cant do that unless both Lucic and Horton are keeping up with the pace while knocking opponents out of the way like bowling pins, but so much of Boston's offensive balance wouldn't be the same without the Czech Republic native.

Horton has been moving freely and easily without hesitation in his first few games coming back from the concussion that knocked him out of the final 36 games last year. That's the first bit of good news for a team that's had too much bad stuff happen when it comes to heard injuries. More importantly the big winger has been mixing it up in front of the net and around the slot area where things can get a little nasty. Thats a clear sign hes over any fear of suffering another concussion and that he's primed for a big season in the walk year of his contract.

The 6-foot-2, 229-pound winger could have had at least a couple of goals in Mondays tight shootout win over Winnipeg, and set up a scoring chance for Lucic in the season-opener when his wrist shot from the face-off circle hand-cuffed Henrik Lundqvist. But none of those golden chances found the back of the net.

Their forward play is part of a trio effort Claude Julien has appreciated in terms of work ethic when Horton and Lucic could have very easily taken weeks to get untracked. But instead both wingers were concentrated on being ready at first puck drop after the team had a healthy discussion in the days after the embarrassing loss to the P-Bruins roster. Fast-forward to this week and the Bruins are riding high with a group of skaters that were impressively ready to play.

I like their play," said Claude Julien. "We said it before the season started they were maybe a question mark because of the situation one being out for a whole year and another not having played while being big bodies, and it can take a little bit longer to get yourself going.

But that line has been really good. Davids Krejci done a great job in the middle, and those other two guys are using their speed, their strength. Theyre making things happen. I like their play. I think theyre very focused right now, and bringing something positive to the hockey club. Theyre making it happen.

Lucic has scaled his game back to the basics after getting a wake-up call in the scrimmage loss to the Providence Bruins, and its been all good since then. Like many of his teammates, Lucic was embarrassed by some of the habits that had crept into his game during a lengthy period of inactivity, and the alarm bells went off at the end of last week. The Bruins power forward is now simply focusing on throwing around his 230-pound battering ram body on the fore-check, setting a physical tone early in games and doing everything that has made him a household name around the league as an intimidating force.

Lucic is leading the NHL with 14 registered hits on the season and hasnt been on a pace like that since he amassed a career-high 262 hits during his breakout NHL season way back in 2008-09. But its the timing and tone of the physical presence that can change hockey games.

Hes finding his identity again, and thats not always about the team. Its sometimes about individuals, said Julien. Weve talked about that and Milan understands that his physical presence is a big part of our success, of our team image and of the success hes had over the years.

Thats what creates more room for him and allows him to score points and goals.

There was a palpable rise in the intensity of Mondays matinee against the Jets when Lucic crushed Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd in the neutral zone near the penalty boxes, and it carried over through regulation and into overtime. That is something unique that Lucic brings to the table that not many other NHL players, if any, can make claims about.

Over the last few years the Bruins left wings job description has become more evolved and infinitely complicated by the fact hes averaged 28 goals per season. But through all the questions about whether hed be physically ready after sitting out during the lockout, it was a return to simple Looch Smash hockey thats allowed him to not miss a single beat.
It always goes back to being a physical presence for me, said Lucic. Thats where everything else in my game stems from. It made a lot of sense with so much unknown going into the season and so many things flying around that I should just go back to the basics in my game. Thats really worked for me thus far."

Krejci joked that he misses Lucic in front of the net while the big winger is running around living out opponents worst nightmare while bombing away in the corners, but the power forward also has the lines only goal thus far this season.

Krejci was actually robbed of a certain power play goal by the Rangers when a shot gloved by Henrik Lundqvist appeared to cross over the goal line, but the play was ruled no goal after being viewed by NHL officials in Torontos War Room. So both he and Horton march on for their first score.

While all three forwards are happy with the way theyve seamlessly jumped into the regular season after only a week skating together, they also know its time to start producing more goals. The Bruins needed superior goaltending and some shootout firepower from Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron to pull out two points against Winnipeg on Monday, and they need consistent, steady offensive results from KrejciLucicHorton rather than dinged posts and sure goals robbed by glove saves.

Were all feeling really good right now and having a lot of fun out there...this is the best I've felt in a long time personally, said Krejci. But were also one of the top lines and that means were expected to produce goals on most nights. Weve only got one so far and we need to be better than that.

The Bruins will need their lines nasty streak and their trumped up production when they jump onto the Madison Square Garden ice to match up with a desperate Rangers team on Wednesday night.

The good thing is Lucic, Krejci and Horton are trending to have a big game after getting robbed of one too many goals over the first two tilts, and the hockey gods have a way of evening those kinds of things out.

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. 

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