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David Krejci "Probable" to Return Tonight Against Ducks

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - David Krejci could be making his return to the lineup on Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks, after being sidelined for the past 15 games.

"Probable. We’ll see tonight after warm-ups," Head Coach Claude Julien said following Thursday's morning skate at TD Garden. "He’ll go out there and hopefully [we'll] get the right decision on him."

"We'll see," said Krejci. "I'm going to take the warmup and I feel good, good enough to help the team, then I'll be in."

Krejci has spent the past five weeks recovering from a partially torn MCL is his left knee sustained on Feb. 20 in St. Louis. He has spent the past few days battling in practice, getting his conditioning up and getting his knee to where it needs to be.

"I felt the last three days were pretty good. Obviously today it was just a morning skate, no contact, but two days before, pretty good contact, good practice," said Krejci. "So I felt pretty good the last three days, so if I feel good again in warmup, then I'll be in."

According to line rushes in morning skate and practices for the past week, Krejci would be starting out on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

"I played wing a few years ago for a couple games but other than that, I've played center basically all my life, so we'll see how it goes tonight, if I'll be in," Krejci said.

As for the prospect of playing alongside Bergeron and Marchand, "I'm excited. Something new, but I'm excited - excited to play with Bergy and March, so it should be fun. Looking forward to it."

There are benefits to Krejci potentially returning on the wing. With less skating and area to cover defensively, he could ease his knee back into action.

"The centerman has to support the puck all over the ice, so he has to skate way more, so that could help me a little bit at the beginning," he acknowledged. "But if I'll be in, that means I'm ready to go. It shouldn't matter that much."

"Probably a little less responsibility for now," said Julien. "He’s only played half the season. We shouldn’t expect him to be our savior. Who knows how he’s going to react if he plays tonight or how he’s going to be able to help us out. We don’t know that."

"When you’ve been out that long, the pace at this time of the year is pretty quick and putting him there probably takes a little pressure off him in terms of having to do all the dirty work down low and everything else. We’ll start him off there and see where it goes, whether its tonight or the next game, that’s our plan right now and that’s why you see him on the wing."

With the Bruins' situation, one point behind Ottawa for the final playoff spot in the East, and going up against one of the West's best in the Anaheim Ducks, Krejci wants to be able to help his team.

"As a hockey player, you never want to be watching from the top," he said. "And especially when you're hurt and guys are battling for the playoffs and there's nothing you can do - you just sit up top and that's pretty frustrating - but I feel like I'm pretty close to being back, and hopefully I can help the team get into the playoffs."

"We're a point behind the playoffs, so we have to be winning lots of games, and it starts tonight," said Krejci, not needing to elaborate. "It's a big one."

Connolly Skates with Team

Brett Connolly joined the team for Thursday's morning skate, marking his first day back with his teammates on the ice since being injured during his second practice as a Bruin on March 4. He took a puck to the hand during that practice, and broke his right index finger.

"Obviously it's been a while since I've skated, so good to get out there with the guys and feel the puck again, and be in the atmosphere," Connolly said. "So it was a good first step today."

Connolly had been skating on his own prior to practices with Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides, and integrating more conditioning and shooting drills as his finger healed.

"It's just going to take a little bit of time for me. Still shooting is a little bit difficult, but again, it's encouraging," said Connolly. "I wasn't that close last week, so I'm excited to be out there and at least shooting the puck a little bit closer to what I know I can shoot it, so again, I'm getting closer."

Connolly's timetable was originally set at six weeks. It has been three. So, is the forward ahead of schedule?

"Hard to tell," said Julien. "It’s hard to tell because of the injury sustained. It depends. Obviously he can skate. It has nothing to do with his skating, but whether he can handle and shoot the puck properly. Not just that, but take a slash or a hit that’s going to come. It’s a pretty delicate injury so that has to be taken into consideration."

Since being acquired from Tampa at the trade deadline, Connolly has been anxious to get into his first game as a Bruin.

"You know, I'm not too sure yet, my timetable," he said. "I'm getting closer, so I'm expecting to be back a few games before this regular season, but we'll see."

"It’s nice to see him out there with us," said Julien. "When you look at him skate and you look at an effortless stride, you can see what kind of player he has the potential to be. It’s unfortunate that we haven’t had a chance to see him yet."

Tough Test Defensively vs. Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks are pushing to finish out the regular season in the highest possible spot. They're currently tied with St. Louis atop the Western Conference with 99 points, and in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, just one point behind the Montreal Canadiens.

They have plenty to still play for, and started a five-game road trip with two straight losses to the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets in which they were outscored 12-5, so they'll be looking to sharpen up their game against Boston.

"Everybody knows they’re a good team," said Julien. "You have to respect the offensive part of their game. It’s important that we try to get out of our end as quick as possible and try and spend as much time in the offensive zone."

"I know it sounds kind of boring but that’s the key to beating this team. You don’t want to spend too much time in your own end, when they have guys that can handle the puck well and they’re dangerous in tight around the net area. Then you've got guys at the blueline that can shoot the puck just as good."

The Bruins' defensive game hasn't been where it needs to be. If they can change that, clamp down around the net and in the slot, and break the puck out quickly and efficiently, that should translate to finding success. They just have to battle and do it for the full 60-plus minutes.

"It's a good test to play against guys that are strong along the walls and can put pucks in the net, and I think we're all looking forward to that," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.

"I mean, we all know what situation we're in, so we have to come out hard, come out skating, playing smart defensively, and hopefully get the win."

No Further Update on Hamilton

Julien announced on Tuesday that defenseman Dougie Hamilton would be out indefinitely, after sustaining an undisclosed injury last Saturday against the Florida Panthers, and that he would be re-evaluated in a few days.

There was no further update on Thursday morning.

"Not at all. Nothing there," confirmed Julien.

"He definitely brings a lot to the table, whether it's offensively, his skating ability, he's just a very good player," said Seidenberg. "We've lost guys throughout the whole season, and now it's up to us to play solid hockey and make up for the hole that he left, and go from there."

Projected Lineup vs. Anaheim March 26

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Krejci

Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - David Pastrnak

Loui Eriksson - Carl Soderberg - Reilly Smith

Chris Kelly - Gregory Campbell - Max Talbot

Zdeno Chara - Adam McQuaid

Torey Krug - Dennis Seidenberg

Matt Bartkowski - Zach Trotman

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg

Healthy Scratches: Daniel Paille, Brian Ferlin

Injured: Brett Connolly (finger)

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