He started skating with the team just over a week ago. On Monday, he joined the team for its three-game road swing through Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg. He was not in the lineup for Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Predators, but finally, on Wednesday night at the Xcel Energy Center, he could be sporting the Spoked B when the puck drops.
“He’s a possibility tonight,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien told the media on Wednesday afternoon. “He’s skating out there, and we’ll see. Again, it’s really hard to make a decision on him, and so we’re just waiting for the word here.
“I would say a possibility. That’s better than [Tuesday], when I told you guys he wasn’t going.”
Krejci was one of five players to skate on Wednesday, and afterward, he said he felt good. Although he was hopeful he would be in the lineup against the Wild, though, he cautioned that the ultimate decision was still several hours away.
“I’ve been trying to stay positive throughout the whole process,” he said. “This is just another step forward, and like I said, the decision’s going to be made a little later. So got to wait and see.”
Krejci, the coaching staff and the team’s medical staff have been cautious with this injury for good reason: The pivot has been fighting this undisclosed injury for much of this season, and twice already, Krejci has attempted to return but has re-aggravated the injury and has been forced to miss more time.
Thus far, Krejci has missed 17 of Boston’s last 19 games, and overall, he has played in just 11 of the Bruins’ 31 games this season.
This time around, Krejci wants to get back to 100 percent. When he returns to the lineup, he wants to be back for good. And that means getting over the mental hump of being worried about a possible injury recurrence.
“It’s going to be in my head,” he admitted. “I just try not to think about it and just focus on the game here because [with] injuries, you just try to do your best to come back. In the game-night situation, whatever happens, happens. Nothing you can control.
“I worked hard to get back where I am today, and I don’t want to have any setbacks anymore. I want to keep playing from now on till the end of the season.”
Julien said it’s no surprise that Krejci is a bit apprehensive about re-aggravating the injury. In fact, Julien said, it’s normal. He said it is probably something captain Zdeno Chara battled after returning last week from a torn posterior cruciate ligament, and something Gregory Campbell battled after returning from the broken leg he suffered during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013.
“Anybody who comes back from an injury is always going to be apprehensive,” Julien said. “Zee’s been in that boat. Guys come back from broken legs and everything else — Soupy’s case in the playoffs. He comes back the next year — you always wonder, Is that first real blow to my leg again going to shatter it?
“So there’s always a risk, and there’s always an apprehensiveness when it comes to coming back from some major injuries.”
Lately, it has been hard for Krejci to watch from high up on press level as his teammates have struggled to produce goals. In their last 10 games, the Bruins have scored more than two goals just twice, and they have only won two of those games.
Needless to say, he is eager to help the B’s offense get rolling again — whether that’s on Wednesday night, on Friday night or sometime in the distant future.
“It’s been a struggle offensively, even when I was in the lineup,” Krejci said. “On the other hand, the guys [have done] a pretty good job playing defense. I know we had some tough stretches in the last few games, but there’s been some games that we didn’t give up much and we still lost, like the last couple times in the shootout.
“That easily could’ve been two wins, but it wasn’t. It is what it is. Obviously, we try to correct some things and try to create a little more offense.”
The bottom line, Krejci said, is he just wants to help. He wants to be back on the ice with his teammates on game nights, and he wants to help them get the job done.
“I just want to help the team get back in a playoff spot, where we belong,” he said, “and go from there.”
Getting Over the Hump
Tuesday night’s loss to the Predators marked Boston’s second straight shootout loss, following Saturday’s defeat at the hands of the Senators.
Yes, it has been nice to get a point in each of those games — but as Chris Kelly said, it’s not enough. A single point is never satisfying enough for this team.
“Our expectations are high for the group,” Kelly said. “Put aside you guys, coaches, management; as players, we expect to be better, and we need to be better. We’re not satisfied with losing in a shootout. We’re far too proud to be satisfied with just getting a point and being happy with it.”
A win at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday night, however, will not be easy to come by. The Bruins are 0-5 this season in the second game of back-to-backs.
That trend, the Bruins said, must end here and now.
“You have to rectify it,” Julien said. “We’re trying to do our best here to turn things around. It’s hard work when things aren’t going your way. You’ve got to dig in a little deeper, and I’m not just talking about players; I’m talking about coaches and everybody involved here.
“You’ve got to find a way. I think that’s what we’re trying to do right now, is trying to turn this ship around and get it sailing in the right direction.”
Boston’s effort has certainly improved in the last two games. Against Pekka Rinne on Tuesday night, they put two pucks in the back of the net, which was no small feat against the 2015 Vezina Trophy favorite. They also managed to bounce back, and bounce back quickly, after squandering a lead early in the third period.
But still, there is plenty to improve upon. For the Bruins, the key to a win lies in the details.
“It’s just a cliche, but it’s the little thing,” Kelly said. “They add up to big things that add up to wins, and I don’t think were doing those little things consistently throughout the game that we have been, or we need to.
“Yeah, we’re getting points, but we’re not getting the result that we want or [playing] the game the way it should be played, in our eyes.”
Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for the Bruins as they seek to turn around this season, but they will certainly keep plugging away until they find a solution.
“It’s the whole season that hasn’t been where we want it to be, and I think it’s just being ready to play — not only in back-to-backs, but in all aspects, all games,” Kelly said. “All we can do is learn from the past, and put it behind us, and move forward.”
And hopefully, when all is said and done on Wednesday night, they will be moving forward with two points.
“As much as we look like we’re competing, we can certainly compete better in certain areas, and we can be better in certain areas — whether it’s in a physical way, it can be in a second-effort way, it can be in a lot of ways,” Julien said. “When you’re not winning, as coaches, you nitpick in all those small areas, and you try and find the things that will help you make your team win some hockey games and turn things around.
"When you’re winning, sometimes you overlook those kind of things, but right now, we’re not in that position.”
Forward Craig Cunningham has been up and down a lot in the past couple of weeks.
Before the Bruins headed out West for a four-game trip at the beginning of December, Cunningham was recalled from Providence, and though he didn’t end up playing — he was, in fact, returned to Providence midway through the trip — he would get his chance.
Since being recalled again last week in the wake of Simon Gagne’s personal leave of absence, the P-Bruins captain has played in three consecutive games. He checked a milestone off his list when he scored his first NHL goal — a shorthanded tally — on Saturday against Ottawa.
It may be subtle, but Cunningham notices a difference between his on-ice demeanor — and his performance — now, as opposed to the three games he spent with the big club at the beginning of this season.
“I think anytime, the more you play, the more comfortable you get,” he said. “You’re put in situations where you’re to be counted on, and obviously, when you’re put in those situations, your comfort level and confidence rises a little bit.”
Game by game, Cunningham is gaining confidence and, in tandem, the confidence of the coaching staff.
Julien has utilized Cunningham on the penalty kill. He has entrusted him to take faceoffs at critical junctures. Cunningham isn’t being treated like a kid who has eight career NHL games under his belt, and he isn’t performing like one.
“I like his competitiveness,” Julien said. “I like the fact that he’s a smart player. He seems to do the right things at the right time.
“He’s a player that you can rely on, that’s going to give you energy, and that you can really count on as far as doing the right things. So I like him. I think he’s earned a spot right here, right now, and as long as he keeps playing that way — and let’s make sure our expectations are in the right place with this guy, and what he can bring, and what he can do.
“He’s a captain of the Providence team because he’s got great character, and it’s showing right now with us. I think at this stage, we could certainly use that character.”
Projected Lineup vs. Wild
Milan Lucic — David Krejci — Loui Eriksson
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly — Carl Soderberg — Craig Cunningham
Daniel Paille — Gregory Campbell — Seth Griffith
Zdeno Chara — Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg — Kevan Miller
Torey Krug — Zach Trotman
Starter: Niklas Svedberg // Backup: Tuukka Rask
Scratches: Joe Morrow, Matt Bartkowski, Matt Fraser