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Krejci Keeping it Positive Despite MCL Injury

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — The 2014-15 season hasn’t gone the way David Krejci wanted it to, or expected it to.

But now, there’s nothing he can do about it. After sustaining a partially torn MCL in his left knee on Friday in the second period of a game against St. Louis — and after learning, after a visit with team doctors on Monday, that it will keep him out for the next 4-6 weeks — there is nothing he can do but try to stay positive, stay in shape and get back into the lineup as soon as possible.

“It is frustrating, but I’m trying to focus on positive things and just really be happy, and try to do the best I can to come back as fast as I can,” Krejci said on Tuesday at TD Garden, speaking to the media for the first time since sustaining the injury. “That’s all you can do. There’s no point to be down on yourself; just stay positive and try to be happy around the guys and make them feel comfortable and happy. That’s all I can do.”

In some ways, Krejci said, his prognosis was a relief — at least it means he’ll be back before the regular season ends, and before the playoffs begin.

“Obviously, at the point when it happens, you don’t know if it’s going to be two weeks or two months or surgery — who knows?” he said. “But kind of relieved that I know I’ll be back before the season’s over. I’ll be doing everything I can, every day, to make sure I can.”

Krejci is a player who is not accustomed to being injured. Prior to the 2014-15 season, he had been able to keep himself remarkably healthy, missing a total of just 16 games since the 2007-08 season.

This year, however, has been a different story. Krejci began the regular season on injured reserve after sustaining an injury in the team’s final preseason game, and in total, he had missed 21 of the Bruins’ 59 games with an undisclosed heading into that Friday contest at St. Louis.

Krejci returned to the lineup in mid-December. He helped the B’s right the ship after a rough month, helped them climb back into playoff position, helped lead them to their most successful month of the season, an 8-1-3 stretch in January.

There is never a good time to go down with an injury, but going down right before the stretch run begins is the toughest of all. Still, Krejci is trying his best to stay positive and work toward an April comeback.

“You’re always around the guys in the dressing room, and you don’t want to be the messenger of negativity,” he said. “You just want to be out there and be with the guys, and obviously you can’t help them on the ice, but just be around them and spend some time with them in the mornings, at practice before and after. So that’s all I can do.”

For Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, Krejci’s injury presents yet another challenge in what has proven to be a trying season for the Black & Gold. Krejci isn’t the first key player to go down with a long-term injury, and just as they have in the past, these players will have to find a way to push through it.

“When I say nothing changes — we’ve got to get through with what we’ve got,” Julien said. “I think we managed it OK when he was out [the first time]. We were still in a playoff spot then. Right now, I know there’s a lot more at stake and it’s tight. … We’ve got to remain the same as we were. You hope that your team is trending in the right direction, here, to counter those kind of situations, which is the injuries to Krejci and others.”

Krejci’s absence means longtime linemate Milan Lucic will be getting accustomed to some new linemates in David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner. Suddenly, his line has become one that boasts speed as one of its strongest assets — that, and an offensive-minded approach.

Lucic vows to play the same game with his new, younger linemates as he has played alongside Krejci for the last several years.

“My game should be simple, regardless of who I play with,” Lucic said. “That straight line type of hockey — getting hard on the forecheck and making strong plays. I think the mindset for myself is that’s what I need to bring with these two guys in order for us to have success. Obviously, the caliber of player that Krech is, and that he’s become — I think we’ve helped each other a lot get to the point that we’re at in our careers, and have had the success that we’ve had because we’ve fed off each other as much as we have over the last five, six years as linemates.

“But I think these two guys are excited to play and trying to establish themselves as NHL hockey players. So I think for myself, I’ve just got to use their excitement and use their young legs and use their speed to our advantage as a line, and have a lot of fun doing it.”

Lucic also believes the onus is on him to be a leader to Pastrnak — a first year pro — and to Spooner, who has yet to play a full season in the NHL.

“Obviously, you want to give the two young guys on the line some confidence and let them know that the only way the three of us are going to have success is if we do it together,” he said. “I think early on in the season [when Krejci was out], I was trying to do everything myself, and kind of getting frustrated and stuff like that.

“But still, no matter how long you’ve played in the league, you’re still learning things — and that’s what I’ve learned. The only way as a line that we’re going to have success is if we play well together, and we’re all on the same page, and have fun competing together.”

Krejci believes that Spooner — ostensibly, his replacement — has what it takes to get the job done in his absence. But as he said, it’s going to take more than Spooner alone to sustain success over the next 4-6 weeks.

“He’s been around this organization for three years, maybe more, so he knows the guys in the room, so he should feel comfortable,” Krejci said. “But he’s a just call-up guy. It’s up to every single individual guy to step up and do his job. I thought they did really, really great job in Chicago, so hopefully they can put another great effort [on Tuesday] and get two points.”

Krejci and Lucic share at least one common belief as they approach what bodes to be a tough month of March: This team has what it takes to compete, whether Krejci is in the lineup or out of it. They proved as much in a decisive 6-2 win over the Blackhawks on Sunday in Chicago.

“We’ve been through a lot — not just me individually, but every single guy and as a team and a coaching staff,” Krejci said. “I thought they responded really well against Chicago, so big one [Tuesday] again [against Vancouver], and I know we’re battling for the last [playoff] spot, so every game is huge.

“I believe in this group — whoever’s playing. We’ve got to get it done.”

Added Lucic, “We showed in that game against Chicago — if we play the right way and we compete hard and stick to the system, we can have success. Obviously, it’s easy to get down and frustrated, and again, losing another player — and obviously a key player like Krech — but at the end of the day, I think there’s lots to look forward to with 23, 24 games left.

“So there’s lots to look forward to with this final push to make the playoffs, and we know how important that is, so we can’t dwell on his injury too much. We just have to get in the right frame of mind where we’re doing the right things to compete the right way and play the right way, and look at those ways to find success.”

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