BOSTON, MA – The Bruins top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton was under the microscope going into Opening Night because two of its members did not play during the work stoppage. Lucic decided to stay home to be closer to his wife, who was pregnant, and Horton felt more comfortable continuing to build up strength, after a concussion ended his season last January.
There were some questions as to whether or not the line would be ready to go and in game shape for the season. But the trio delivered in the B’s 3-1 win over the Rangers, scoring the team’s first goal when Lucic, driving hard to the net, slammed home a rebound off of Krejci’s slap shot.
“I think they both played well,” said Julien, of Lucic and Horton, following a short, spirited practice on Sunday morning and reflecting on Saturday's win. “I think what Milan brought is what we expect out of Milan. He was driving the net, he was a presence out there, he was physical. Obviously, he had his mean face on last night and that’s what makes him such a good player.
“Nathan was going into corners, battling. He didn’t fear anything and when a guy hasn’t played in a year for concussion reasons, those are good signs. Conditioning wise, I think he did a great job of keeping the pace up from start to finish.”
For Horton to be successful in his return from a second concussion in as many years, Julien thinks it starts with his skating game and some determination.
“Right now, he’s skating and he’s going to get his opportunities,” said Julien. “He seems focused, he seems really determined this year, to come back and have a real good year for himself and for our team. He’s happy to be back, so he’s in the right frame of mind.”
Horton says he is feeling good, but “a little sore” after his first game in just about a year, and is ready to be physical, though there is still some rust to dust off.
“A couple of times I missed the puck,” said the winger following Sunday's practice at TD Garden. “That will come, but I feel like I’m in good shape, my legs are moving, my legs feel good, just keep working on shooting the puck. But, overall I feel pretty good.
“I just want to concentrate on moving my feet at all times, with or without the puck and get in on the forecheck, hit somebody, get hit and just fight for that puck, go to the net. I feel really strong. If I sit in front of the net you can’t move me, that’s where I want to be, that’s where a lot of the goals are scored.”
The former playoff hero doesn’t think it will take much longer to get things rolling with his old line mates.
“No, they’re great players,” said Horton, when asked if it while take a while to get some chemistry back. “It’s easy to play with great players. For myself, just always work hard and I think you get so many chances off that.”
Krejci likes the way the top line played, but believes there is still work to be done.
“I think we had some good shifts, some good chances but we still got a long way to get back to where we want to be, but it was a good start yesterday.”