Bruins

Krug healthy, confident and 'not going to take a step back this year'

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Krug healthy, confident and 'not going to take a step back this year'

A year ago Torey Krug was still in the throes of a rehabilitation program following shoulder surgery and readying for a training camp already feeling behind everybody else. Those circumstances led to a bit of an understandably slow start for the 26-year-old defenseman, but Krug finished with his best all-around NHL season as he hits his playing prime. 

The puck-moving power play maestro was also missed badly in the playoffs when he succumbed to a knee injury in the final few games of the regular season. Krug crossed the 50-point plateau for the first time in his career, topped 20 minutes of ice time per game while playing as a top-4 D-man all season and generally proved wrong any naysayers that felt a 5-foot-9 defenseman simply couldn’t survive in that kind of role. 

So now that Krug has set that bar with last year’s performance, he’s not looking to take any steps back this season. That means the puck-moving D-man is again aiming his sights on playing top-4 minutes for the Black and Gold, and that could mean partnering up with 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy as he skates through his first full NHL season. 

“That’s the kind of stuff guys like that to talk about headed into the season…who they’re going to play with and what they’re responsibilities are going to be,” said Krug. “From an individual standpoint it’s always about trying to take another step. I thought last year I gained more trust from the coaching staff and I’m not going to take a step back this year. 

“It’s going to be a very similar role for myself and getting some help moving some pucks on the back end. That will always help me out. I’m looking forward to it. I just finished my first week of consecutive days on the ice this summer, and it’s definitely the best I’ve felt in a couple of years.”

There certainly could be a couple of different looks in NHL training camp as the Bruins decide how best to utilize a top-end, inexperienced talent like McAvoy while grooming him as a future No. 1 defenseman. The B’s could shift hard-nosed Kevan Miller over to his left side to give McAvoy a bit more of a rugged, experienced defensive presence to match his offensive abilities, or they could opt for Krug in the kind of puck-moving pairing that could give other team’s mismatch problems. It remains to be seen if Krug and McAvoy could survive together as a pairing in the D-zone, but the school of thought would be that they’ll rarely be in that position if they’re doing their job skating, moving pucks and keeping possession firmly on their sticks. 

Regardless of whether Krug ends up with McAvoy or in a more traditional pairing with Adam McQuaid as more of a third pair offering, he feels the time has come to for him to be one of the older guys acting as a bridge between grizzled veterans and the talented bunch of newcomers. 

“I’ve been involved in certain meetings, and that says a lot along with talking to a lot of veteran guys through the summer while staying involved in the Boston community. I’m in the training program throughout the summer and you feel like you’re a part of everything. I’ve definitely had that feeling [of being a core player] from Sweens as well as from Bruce [Cassidy],” said Krug. “I’m serving as part of bridging that gap between the younger guys and the older guys. 

“Going into my sixth year and having been a part of the team that got to the Stanley Cup Final, it’s not only about on the ice but it’s about socially as well. I try to bring those young guys in and help them feel comfortable talking to the older guys. That’s the kind of role I’m really taken on.”

Given Krug’s unending quest to improve himself in any way possible and his unwillingness to take a step back from last season, even more should be expected from a player that’s healthy, confident and ready to again produce the best season of his NHL career. 

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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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