Bruins

Struggling Krejci needs the puck more

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Struggling Krejci needs the puck more

WILMINGTON David Krejci is a pretty bright young hockey player.

He certainly knows when hes playing well and putting out good, efficient, productive performances.

Krejci also knows when there is something amiss in his game that needs to be corrected.

Lets just say Krejci upped expectations for himself when he scored a team-leading 12 goals during the Stanley Cup run last spring, and those expectations havent been close to met in the early going this year. Theres also a little more of the latter than the former when it comes to where the center is at with his game right now.

I feel like I havent done much this year yet, so I have to start things up, admitted Krejci about a frustrating first month of the season.

Krejci just as much as for the rest of the Bruins hasnt been his best. That was essentially hammered home when Claude Julien busted up his longtime line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, and its plainly obvious in Krejcis output this year: a single point in five games along with a minus-5 to start this year.For more than simple stats just watch the first few shifts of the San Jose Sharks loss from Saturday where Krejci sleepily turned the puck over twice -- including a giveaway in the neutral zone that turned into the Sharks' first goal of the game.

The minus-5 is the worst mark on the team, and a stunning number for a player in Krejci that led the entire NHL with a plus-37 three years ago. On the positive tip Krejci has some pretty good company in the early season plusminus doghouse: Daniel Alfredsson, P.K. Subban, Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal and Kevin Bieksa are all minus-5 or worse to start their seasons as well.

A core injury that caused him to miss three games certainly didnt help matters either.

But Krejci said there are no physical excuses for his substandard play early in the season, and said hes 100 percent. In his mind its about demanding the puck, owning the puck and then making plays all over the ice with the puck in his possession once hes become a little more assertive out on the ice.

So dont be surprised if you see Krejci tapping his stick to the ice looking for the puck against Montreal because thats exactly what he wants to get him into his happy place.

Thats my game. I want the puck. I feel really comfortable with my skating right now, so I want the puck in the neutral zone or in our defensive zone, said Krejci. Then I can take it into the offensive zone and make something happen. Thats what Ive got to do. Ive got to want the puck more and Ive got to talk to the D about giving me the puck more.

I need to make something happen, and if I dont then Im not happy because I didnt do my job. Were all going to have to show it tomorrow. We know its not going to be easy, but once we have a chance we have to bury it. There are no excuses anymore. Weve got to start putting the puck in the net.

There are some signs that things are turning around for the creative 25-year-old pivot, however. The first and most important step is that hes aware theres a problem with his game that needs addressing. The second step was getting Krejci back together with wayward right winger Nathan Horton something that Claude Julien opted for at Wednesdays nearly two-hour practice at Ristuccia Arena.

Krejci will be centering Horton and most likely Benoit Pouliot in Thursdays opening look at the Canadiens this season at TD Garden, and the center thinks being reunited with Horton should help him find his game quickly.

It certainly cant hurt.

When I saw Horton in the same line drills as me I was excited, said Krejci. We had a good practice today, and well get back on the ice tomorrow for a game and play just like I know that we can. We want to make some plays and hopefully score some goals.

Right now Im not going the way I want to go myself, so its good to have him on my line. When one guy was down the other guys would help them out, so hopefully we can build each other up and get back into our form.

Those familiar with Krejci know he can go through stretches where he seems invisible out on the ice, or a string of neutral opponents dont really bring the heat needed out of the Czech Republic center.

But Montreal is a hockey foe Krejci has always upped his game against. The Habs are the perfect opponent for the struggling center looking to get his offense and his teams offense back on track for a productive campaign.

Krejci and the Bruins offense have both been on a similar track through the early portion of the season, but both might just be poised for an explosion Thursday night at the Garden.

Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

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Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

BRIGHTON -- Tuukka Rask is quickly making his way through the concussion protocol and may return to action this weekend.

The Bruins netminder skated with the other injured players ahead of Monday’s main team practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is on track to rejoin the team at regular practice on Tuesday barring any setbacks in his concussion recovery. That would leave Rask with just a couple of games missed after getting trucked by Anders Bjork at practice last week, and it would give the Bruins back their No. 1 goaltender after Anton Khudobin let in five goals vs. the Sabres on Thursday night.

“He’s in the protocol and progressing well,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll probably join us [on Tuesday] for the next step if there are no ill effects from today. That’s a positive. If there are no setbacks, I think Saturday is a more realistic [timetable for a return].”

The hope would be that Rask could start elevating his game when he does return, and play better than the goalie that’s posted the 1-3-0 record, 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage thus far this season. But first things first with the recovery to his first career concussion as an NHL goalie, and the set of hurdles that must be passed before Rask is again allowed to jump back into game action as early as this weekend.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Bruins practice with Rask, David Krejci and Noel Acciari all skating prior to practice, Patrice Bergeron staying off ice with a maintenance day and Kevan Miller skating in main practice with a maroon, no-contact jersey:

Marchand-Schaller-Bjork
DeBrusk-Backes-Pastrnak
Agostino-Nash-White
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma

Khudobin

Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.