Bruins

Notes: Krejci has been racking up points

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Notes: Krejci has been racking up points

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have enjoyed scoring tears of late for the Bruins, and its no coincidence that those bountiful scoring stretches have come together with a David Krejci revival.

The Czech Republic center disappeared for long stretches of December and January, but hes been revitalized since again pairing together on Bostons top offensive line with Lucic and Horton. Krejci picked up the assist on Lucics game winner in Bostons 3-1 statement win over the Canucks, and has put up a four-game point streak with a goal and seven assists over those last four games.

Bruins coach Claude Julien lauded Krejci for having one of his best games all season against the Calgary Flames earlier this week, and he flashed all of his considerable offensive skills in setting up the third period game-winner.

Krejci cut through Keith Ballard and Sami Salo en route to the net in a classic move to split the Vancouver defense, and continued to carry Ballard on his back as he whirled around the Canucks cage.

I tried to go through him and tried to get a goal, but somehow, something told I wasnt going to score there. So I went around the net and stuff it in around the side. That didnt work either, so I threw it Seidenberg. Looch and Horton are big bodies in front of the net and Luongo couldnt see, so Looch got to the rebound.

Krejci alertly found Dennis Seidenberg open at the right point, and the Bs defensemen slammed a shot that Roberto Luongo managed to block before surrendering a big rebound in front of the net. The puck landed right at the feet of Lucic, and the rest was childhood dream come true material for the Vancouver native.

Last season Krejci truly found his offensive stride while starring for the Czech Republic in the Olympic hockey tournament, and then helped carried the Bruins offense once he returned to Boston. This season February has again been a good month for Krejci, and once more a late season kick has been in the cards for Bostons playmaking pivot.

Theres really no coincidence that Krejci starts unlocking the unique vision, hands and creativity vital to his game when things start to mean more at the end of the season, and he rises to the competition being stacked against him.

You could say that, said Krejci. Im just trying to do my best like I was at the beginning of the year. Sometimes it wasnt going my way, but now Im more excited that those really count right now. Im trying to help my team get into the best shape they can be in headed into the playoffs. Im pretty happy with the way things have been going the last couple of weeks, but I still have 20-something games to go before we get to the playoffs.

Its no secret that the Bruins are achieving consistency and landing some of their best wins of the regular season with Krejci flourishing and again exploiting opposing defenses with his precision passing and surprisingly effective shooting.

The points are piling up again for Krejci, and thats a very good thing for the Black and Gold.

Andrew Ference was out of Saturday nights game after the first period with a lower body injury, and there was no further update after the win over the Canucks. Ference has had issues with groin injuries over the last few years, and theres always the possibility that type of injury has cropped up again.

Shane Hnidy spoke after the game about signing a one-year deal with the Bruins, and was clearly happy with the development while having no clear indication how close he is to returning from a shoulder.

Ive been cleared to practice, and thats about it at this point, said Hnidy. Im very excited. Boston has been a great place I wanted to go back, and here I am. I know there would be a bunch of steps. The first one was getting out there and practicing. The second one was making the team. Now I just need to move forward and get my health ready so I can fill whatever role is needed on the team.

Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley didnt factor much into the offensive end, but they did a lot of little things to help the win. Each player was a major factor in a penalty kill that kept the Canucks off the board in three different power play chances, and Kelly was both blocking shots and winning face-offs in that stretch.

Peverley and Kelly were really good for us. Especially killing that penalty late in the game. Kelly blocked a couple of big shots there in that last penalty kill, and theyre just very smart players. Theyre smart. Theyre quick. Theyve been a really good addition to the hockey club, and theyve fit in quickly.

Shawn Thornton joked after the game that there was a Serbian Army celebrating in the room adjacent to the visitors dressing room at Rogers Arena as the Lucic family hooted, hollered and cheered jubilantly with Milan Lucic after potting the game-winner against his hometown Canucks he rooted for as a hockey-loving child.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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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Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

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Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

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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