Loui Eriksson started Sunday night's game against Buffalo playing with Krejci and Milan Lucic. It's been an oft talked about lineup move, with that right wing position still in limbo and Krejci re-finding his game after returning from injury.
But with the Bruins down 2-1 late in the second period, Head Coach Claude Julien put Eriksson back with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. The trio scored on their first shift together, with Kelly bouncing in a Zdeno Chara drive to tie the game. Eriksson provided the double-screen in front as Kelly provided the deflection.
The trio spent the rest of the game together, though Eriksson ended up on the ice with Lucic and Krejci when he scored the overtime winner amidst a line change. The B's topped the Sabres 4-3.
In the past three games, Eriksson has two overtime winners and two assists, Soderberg has a goal and three assists and Kelly has a goal and two assists for a combined 11 points.
That line remained together for Monday's practice at TD Garden.
"You saw last night, I had to put Eriksson back with his line and all of a sudden, first shift together, they score a goal - and that's the challenge I've been dealing with all year, is trying to find guys on certain lines that help certain guys," Julien said following the skate. "So, you know, when you try and help one line, it seems like you're weakening another and so I'm doing my best here to try and balance that with inserting different players and trying different things."
"And yeah, you're going to say, 'You're still trying things at this time of the year?' Yeah, I am, because I don't have the answer right now. I'm not satisfied with what I've seen, so I've got to continue to work on that, that's my job."
That also applies to the fourth line, with players rotating in and out of the winger spot with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell as Simon Gagne remains on a personal leave of absence to be with his family during his father's battle with cancer.
"Those are just challenges that I think we've been through all year," Julien said, on the challenge of finding the best fit for that line. Seth Griffith, Matt Fraser and Craig Cunningham have all spent time there. Fraser played on that line against Buffalo.
Overall, though, there's no denying that the Soderberg line has been the Bruins' most consistent line recently.
"When you look at it right now, I mean there’s no reason to take them apart," said Lucic. "They’ve been our best line, especially the last three games. They got a goal in Minnesota. They played a pretty good game in Winnipeg and obviously another good game [against Buffalo], so it’s good that at least one line is clicking and it’s up to the rest of us to find our game."
"That’s the importancy of being a good team is having every line going that you can go after teams in waves and line after line. It’s up to the rest of us to step up our game and play like the Soderberg line has been playing."
Cunningham Sticks with Lucic, Krejci For Now
With that trio staying together for now, Cunningham is seeing time with Lucic and Krejci.
"Well, I put him there [on Sunday] - obviously I needed Loui back on his line, but I'm not saying Craig was a real bad fit there, because he's a hard worker and that line certainly can use a guy like him that's going to battle hard and work," Julien said. "And that's what we've got right now, and you've got to try to make things fit into place right now and I thought he did a good job with that line."
Cunningham's work ethic could complement that line, but it ultimately pivots around Krejci's game.
"I thought David and his line played better in the third period [against Buffalo]," Julien said. "So whether we're going to give all the credit to Cunny, where I thought David's game just got better as the game went along there so that was a pretty good line for us there in the third period."
"In the third period I tried to be the difference maker and tried to do a little skating," Krejci said of his play.
Cunningham is just grateful for the chance on that line, for however long it plays out.
"Obviously it's a great opportunity and you know, coach puts you in that position, you want to deliver with results," said Cunningham, who has played nine games with Boston this season, tallying his first NHL goal in the process. "He's giving you an opportunity and you definitely want to reward him with the opportunity that's given to you."
"You're not going to turn into a better player overnight, no matter who you're playing with, so I think 'do what you do well,' and those guys are so good that they're in the right place all the time and they make the game a little bit easier, so work as hard as you can, get in on the forecheck, try and get Dave the puck and let him do his thing."
NHL Department of Player Safety Weighs in on Bartkowski
Defenseman Matt Bartkowski received a game misconduct and five minute major for interference on Brian Gionta in the first period of Sunday night's game against Buffalo. He was also assessed the first fighting major of his career, when Marcus Foligno challenged him after the hit.
On Monday at 12:45 p.m., the NHL Department of Player Safety sent a series of tweets regarding the call, suggesting that there will be no supplemental discipline coming. "Bartkowski/Gionta is an example of incidental head contact on an otherwise full body check," the department said.
"The head is not the MAIN point of contact. Also, Gionta puts himself in a vulnerable position making contact with his head unavoidable. Bartkowski neither extends upward, nor does he 'pick' the head."
A little while earlier, Bartkowski had spoken with the media following practice.
"I haven't heard anything yet [about supplemental discipline]. I obviously hope I don't," Bartkowski said. "It's just a play in the game. You don't like to see players leave the game. It's not like it was my intent to injure anybody."
"I watched the replay and I didn't see any head contact. It wasn't like I was trying to hit him in the head or anything. I was just riding the line and it was just a play in the game."
"I mean, you don't want to take anybody out, like I said, but in situations where you're going to get a big hit, it's good - it gets the team going, it gets everybody excited, it gets the fans into it and everything, so any time you can make a big hit or a big play, it's good, it gets everybody going."
Julien had also provided his thoughts on the situation.
"I've looked at it again closely this morning and you know, Brian Gionta is not a real tall player to start with and the pass is a little ahead of him, so he has to reach, which puts him in an even lower position there, so I don't think there was any ill intent on Bart to try and injure him," Julien said. "When you see how he falls, the heads hits the ice and that's where I think he gets hurt more than anything else. Just from looking at it, I don't know what he's been assessed with and what his injury is, but again, it's an unfortunate thing."
"Again, I don't think Bart was head-hunting by any means. He was just skating across like we ask our Ds to do and eliminate those passes, so again, it's not the greatest pass and it's the middle of the ice and those are dangerous plays."
Practice Lineup 12/22
White Jerseys: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Craig Cunningham
Gold: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Gray: Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Merlot: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Matt Fraser - Seth Griffith
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Zach Trotman
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg