David Krejci missing from practice, Bruins intend 'to take our time with it'

David Krejci missing from practice, Bruins intend 'to take our time with it'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins center David Krejci was missing from the practice ice on Tuesday and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday after exiting his preseason debut after just two shifts due to a lower-body injury.

It was a first-period collision with Philly defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere that appeared to tweak something on Krejci’s right side, but it was unclear at the time if it was a hip, knee or ankle that was the source of the problem. Bruce Cassidy said following the game that he didn’t believe the injury was serious that the 34-year-old Krejci was removed from the game more for precautionary reasons than anything else.

Cassidy was sounding a bit of the same tune following Krejci’s absence from practice on Tuesday with the aim of making sure the Czech playmaking center ready for the Oct. 3 season opener in Dallas.

“Obviously he didn’t skate today. He’ll be re-evaluated [on Wednesday],” said Cassidy. “I don’t think right now that it’s anything serious, but we’re going to take our time with it for sure. We want to make sure he’s ready to go [for the regular season].”

Given all of that, it certainly wouldn't be surprising if Krejci is shut down for the remaining two preseason games regardless of the injury's severity. 

Swedish free-agent signee Par Lindholm took Krejci’s place during Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and certainly the Bruins have enough depth to withstand a short absence. But what if Krejci is banged up enough that it costs him the rest of the preseason, or even worse part of the regular season?

Well, certainly Charlie Coyle has looked ready, willing and able to bump up to the second-line center and perhaps the drop off wouldn’t be all that noticeable in the short term. But the Krejci injury would have a cascade effect on both the third and fourth line for the Black and Gold.

Sean Kuraly would most likely be elevated to third-line center, which is probably asking a little too much out of the perfect fourth-line center. Either Lindholm or a youngster like Trent Frederic would center the fourth line, and that would undoubtedly impact the kind of quality minutes provided by the fourth line last season.

Clearly, the biggest area of concern with a Krejci absence is on the offensive end where the center is coming off a strong season with 20 goals and 73 points in 81 games. It’s true that the Bruins have four quality centers at the NHL level when everybody is healthy, but that depth gets tested when the Bruins find themselves in need of a top-6 center.

Jack Studnicka has a bright future and arguably Boston’s top forward prospect in the organization, but it’s been plain throughout camp that the 20-year-old needs some development time in the AHL. 

“It’s going to be tough in the middle for Jack. We’d have to move pieces around, which we said we would do [if he was ready]. But I don’t think he’s there yet and that’s fine. With Jack, there is great hockey instincts and great will, but I just think he hasn’t grown into his body yet strength-wise. It is what it is,” said Cassidy. “But we like how he’s playing. Is he ready to unseat anybody? I wouldn’t say so yet.”

The bottom line: The Bruins have to be hoping that it’s nothing serious with Krejci’s lower body as they have been maintaining the past two days.

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NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Lightning a clear top two

NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Lightning a clear top two

It took nearly five months into the regular season for it to happen, but the Bruins and Lightning have separated from everybody else in the NHL.

The two Atlantic Division powerhouses are just one point apart in the division, but they are both more than five points ahead of everybody else in the league. That includes a Pittsburgh team that’s been hot recently and a Washington club that’s back to their deep, dangerous selves after taking a season off last year after celebrating their Stanley Cup title.

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The Lightning have won 11 games in a row and lost two regulation games since Christmas, and they are finally living up to the massive potential within their roster. And now they’ve added the speedy, gritty Blake Coleman in an impressive deal to make them even tougher to play against.

Through it all, the Bruins have managed to stay on top of Tampa Bay, and keep one step ahead of them. That’s just as impressive as the Lightning’s scorching hot run over the last two months.

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Bruins needs are no secret ahead of NHL trade deadline

Bruins needs are no secret ahead of NHL trade deadline

There are few secrets about the Bruins or the strengths and weaknesses that face them heading into the stretch run and Stanley Cup Playoffs that follow.

The Bruins rely on the NHL’s best line — the Perfection Line — superior special teams play, and the NHL’s top goaltending duo along with a strong defensemen group for their winning formula, and it’s proven plenty good enough during the regular season in recent years. The B’s currently sit at an NHL-best 86 points on the season and have a six-point lead on everybody else in the NHL aside from their hard-charging divisional rivals in Tampa Bay.

The Bruins have won nine of their last 10 games after a ragged stretch of play in December/January and have been rolling since the NHL All-Star break while understandably feeling good about their game right now.

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“We’re taking a lot more value in [the defensive] part of the game, and some of it is getting the balance in the lines so that they’re fresh, getting everyone involved,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think most of our minutes now you’ll see, our forwards are typically at the least amount is 10 minutes sometimes for the lower guys if they’re not killing too many penalties, so I think that helps everyone stay in the game as well.”

When the Bruins are going well as they are right now, they are getting balanced play from their roster. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and it’s something that gets exposed when they play high-quality competition.

The weaknesses on the Bruins roster are equally clear and easy to diagnose because it’s been the same old thing for the last handful of years.

The Bruins have tried multiple times to acquire top-6 wingers who can produce offense, whether it’s been band-aid deadline solutions like Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford, or a stab at an attempted long-term fix when they traded for Rangers power forward Rick Nash. They couldn’t predict the abrupt, concussion-influenced retirement from the NHL for Nash following a few months in Black and Gold, and so a top-6 winger continues to be Don Sweeney’s "white whale" on the Bruins roster.

Once the playoffs begin and the Bruins face deeper, bigger and stronger defensive groups, the prolific Perfection Line routinely goes through stretches where they are held in check by opponents. It’s a prominent factor when the Bruins lost to the Lightning in the second round two years ago, and one of the prime reasons the B’s fell in seven games to the St. Louis Blues last June in the Stanley Cup Final.

When it happens, the Bruins become almost completely reliant on their power play to provide offensive punch while the other forward lines haven’t been able to effectively fill the scoring void.

The only way that’s going to change is for the Bruins to bring in a top-6 forward who can play the role of game-breaker and finish off the offensive chances set up by linemates David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins need another forward line that can put a scare in opponents offensively and they simply don’t have it consistently right now, just as they haven’t had it in the last handful of seasons.  

With names like Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman and Jason Zucker now off the trade deadline board, the Bruins are down to some of their top big-name trade choices in Chris Kreider, Kyle Palmieri and Josh Anderson.

Kreider would be the optimal choice because of his skating speed, consistency and the size and occasional mean streak that the Bruins could surely use among their top-6 group. But there are options out there provided Sweeney doesn’t get hung up waiting for Kreider to be made available to teams.

The other need for the Bruins at this point?

With Kevan Miller out for the entire season to this point with a fractured kneecap that sidelined him for last spring’s entire Stanley Cup Final run as well, the Bruins are a little light on the back end. The B’s could use a big, strong, hardnosed and physical defenseman capable of holding other teams accountable and doling out physical punishment in the D-zone.

The Bruins may have found an in-house solution in 22-year-old Jeremy Lauzon, who most recently served a two-game suspension for drilling Derek Stepan with a big, high hit against the side boards in a home win over the Coyotes. But that particular roster need is the reason they were linked to defenseman Brenden Dillon in trade rumors before he was eventually shipped from the San Jose Sharks to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for a couple draft picks.

It’s also less than ideal to rely on a rookie like Lauzon as a rugged, grizzled enforcer on the back end when it comes to playoff time. That’s something else to consider when Don Sweeney goes shopping over the next five days ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline, a date that’s quickly becoming anticlimactic given all the trades getting consummated well ahead of time.

Sweeney knows the team’s greatest needs, he’s on the clock and the pressure is on the Bruins general manager to adequately address them ahead of next Monday’s deadline.