BOSTON - It's been nearly six months since David Krejci and Torey Krug participated in game action. Offseason surgeries for both - Krejci on his hip and Krug on his shoulder - delayed their returns for the preseason.
But when the Bruins make the trip to Quebec City tonight for a tilt against the Montreal Canadiens, both will be back in the lineup.
"I'm excited. You want to play in games, you get to a point where you're just practicing and skating around all summer," said Krug, who underwent surgery on his right shoulder on April 21.
"You want to get into some live action where you can get in there and compete against a guy in a different jersey. I'm excited."
Krejci, who had a procedure on his left hip on April 25, began taking part in battle drills last week. His timeline accelerated from there.
"Looking forward to it, pretty excited," said Krejci, who will skate in the middle of Ryan Spooner and David Backes. "It's been a pretty good training camp, especially last week I was able to do battle drills.
"I feel like I'm pretty good. Obviously games are a little different than practices but I felt pretty good last week - good to go."
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien hopes the game action helps both players get back up to speed.
"They've practiced, but then they haven't played games," said Julien. "So, it's good that we're able to get them into some preseason games here and give them a chance to, I guess, get up to the standard of everybody else, that they're in right now.
"Hopefully that happens. They've looked good in practice so we'll see how they handle tonight."
Julien had no worries about either player's readiness. He knows both are itching to get back in the mix.
"The thing that sticks out to me is they're excited to play," said Julien. "And that's usually a pretty good sign - none of them are hesitant. If anything, they can't wait to play.
"That's a good sign for me and from the medical staff; there are no issues there. They're cleared to play."
Versatility The Key For Julien
Julien is all about versatility. One of the most important aspects he looks for in a player's game is their ability to adapt to any situation that could arise during a game.
"We've just gone through that at the World Cup [of Hockey]. We had a lot of centers playing the wing and it was great for faceoffs," said Julien. "It just gave us more flexibility. But, for us, we like our players to be more versatile and play different positions when asked to.
"To me, that's a strength to your hockey club when you can have that."
One player, in particular, who is trying to show off his flexibility is Noel Acciari. During his stint with the Bruins late last season, he played the majority of the time at center. But with an abundance of centermen battling for roster spots this fall, shifting to the wing may be the difference between making the team and heading to Providence.
"Competition is fun. We have a good group of guys here right now. I know everyone's battling and competing hard," said Acciari, who played a number of games at wing while with P-Bruins last season.
"I played quite a bit of wing last year in Providence…wherever I need to play I'll play."
Tonight's lineup includes one line that boasts three centers. Krejci will be in the middle of Ryan Spooner and David Backes.
"If I'm having a tough time on the draw those other two can step in," said Krejci. "Spoons is a lefty so he can take some draws, as well. I'm really excited. Those are two really good players."
Quebec City Takes Center Stage
Tonight's game between the Bruins and Habs will be played at the new Videotron Centre in Quebec City (the hometown of Patrice Bergeron).
"It's always a pretty good atmosphere when these two teams meet, period, no matter where it is," said Julien. "But, you're right. There's a city there that would love to have a team there and deserves to have a team there. They'd certainly be a good addition to the league, so hopefully that happens for them someday.
"But, we're going to play in a guest NHL rink against a team that usually has some interesting games, so we're actually looking forward to it."
Projected Lineup (based on morning skate)
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Ryan Spooner - David Krejci - David Backes
Matt Beleskey - Austin Czarnik - Jimmy Hayes
Jake DeBrusk - Tim Schaller - Noel Acciari/Tyler Randell
Zdeno Chara - Colin Miller
Torey Krug - Kevan Miller
Christian Ehrhoff - Adam McQuaid /Rob O'Gara
Bergeron, Marchand and Chara were given the morning skate off.