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Bruins need decisions on Krejci's line, defense pairs

Thursday, 04.25.2013 / 1:50 PM
Matt Kalman  - NHL.com Correspondent

BOSTON -- During the past couple of seasons, including the Boston Bruins' drive to the 2011 Stanley Cup, a line of David Krejci centering Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton has been a staple for the team.

During the condensed NHL schedule in 2012-13, injuries and ineffectiveness have forced coach Claude Julien to juggle all of his lines more over the course of the first 45 games than he usually would in an 82-game season.

That's left Krejci, who's typically regarded as the Bruins' No. 1 center, skating with several different combinations on his wing. His latest linemates are Lucic and Rich Peverley. Krejci is hoping he can build some positive momentum with any two wings heading into the postseason.

"It would be nice to get a chemistry with a couple guys and stick with them," said Krejci, who's tied for second on the Bruins with 32 points in 44 games. "It's always nicer to play with the same guy all the time because then you [create] chemistry; even sometimes if it doesn't go the way you want to, you know how to bring the success back to you if you're playing with the same guy. But I understand that if there's a bad game, bad period, we need to get something going, the lines need to be switched a little. It's understandable. And I'm all for it. So all I can do right now is focus on my game."

With three games remaining before the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Bruins are balancing their attempt to win the Northeast Division, resting players for the playoff grind, and awaiting the return of Horton from an upper-body injury. Julien has been able to calm his juggling and managed the past several games to put together somewhat steady line combinations, minus Horton, and defense pairs that could carry over into the postseason.

The line of Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin was a two-way force in 2011-12 and that's carried over into this season. That trio has been together most of the season. Recent lineups have featured the return of Gregory Campbell to the fourth line between Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, who've been a grinding force for three seasons. Chris Kelly has settled in between Carl Soderberg and Jaromir Jagr.

"We're getting close to it," Julien said. "I think there's something to be said about that. You want to get, I guess, some sort of a feeling of what you want to do, but we're almost healthy, so it's getting close to that."

On defense, Julien and his staff have several decisions to make. Some combination of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk will be the team's top four defensemen. Whether the Bruins go with a Chara-Seidenberg shutdown pair or split them up probably depends on Boston's playoff opponent.

As for the Bruins' third pair, Adam McQuaid is a strong candidate to be one of the blueliners because of his size and experience. He recently returned from a shoulder injury and is shaking off the rust.

Rookie Dougie Hamilton skated in the top four for much of the season, but he's been a healthy scratch several times in recent weeks for what Julien called rest. Matt Bartkowski and veteran Wade Redden are in the mix for that sixth spot, and they'll get a chance to make their case over the final three games of the regular season.

"I think right now it's just a matter of us deciding what we want as a fit back there," Julien said.

Although the Bruins' core has been together for more than three years now, it couldn't hurt to have the defense pairs get a few more games together before the intensity of the playoffs arrives.

"It always helps playing with a guy that you've played with for the most part," Seidenberg. "It's little things -- where he wants the puck, breaking out when you go D-to-D. So it's the little things that help when you're paired up once in a while. Hopefully we can figure that out the next couple games."

There will be a lot of questions answered before the final horn sounds to end the Bruins' regular season Sunday night.

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