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Krejci Skates as B's Look to Keep Building on Recent Success

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTONDavid Krejci made his presence felt on the ice on Wednesday, even if he wasn’t practicing with the rest of his teammates.

The center — who has missed two consecutive games with an undisclosed injury — skated on Wednesday morning for the first time since Saturday night’s pregame warmups. Prior to the team’s scheduled practice at Ristuccia Arena, he was out on the ice early with Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides as well as injured teammates Kevan Miller and Torey Krug.

Krejci reemerged a bit later for some additional shooting work with a few of his teammates, including Tuukka Rask and Seth Griffith.

There is still no timetable for his return to game action, but Head Coach Claude Julien called his return to the ice a sign of progress.

“He skated today — that’ s progress to me, so that’s a good sign to see him out there,” Julien said after practice. “He felt pretty good, so nice to see that.”

When he spoke to the media, Julien had not yet conferred with the team’s medical staff and was unable to say whether or not Krejci is likely to play in tomorrow night’s game against Edmonton.

“Today was his first day skating, and again, the medical part of it is what we have to deal with,” Julien said. “I haven’t gone there yet to ask them how everything’s going.

“If he would be ready [on Thursday], I would want him in the lineup. Why sit him out a game when he’s ready?… I’m going to talk to our trainers. We’ll probably talk again tomorrow morning and see if there’s still some doubt that he’s not going to be playing, but if he’s 100 percent, I don’t want him watching tomorrow.”

In Krejci’s absence, the Bruins have won two straight games en route to their first three-game winning streak of the season. The B’s are now winners of six of their last eight games, but even so, they are eagerly awaiting the return of last year's points leader.

“Probably not the start of the season that he’s wanted, missing … five games now in the season,” said Milan Lucic, Krejci’s longtime linemate. “But then again, it is November, so you’d rather him take his time and get back to 100 percent and get back to being the player that he can be because you can definitely see out there how important of a guy he is to our lineup.”

In Krejci’s most recent absence, Chris Kelly has been centering the first line, with Lucic on his left and rookie Seth Griffith on his right. Though Lucic has gotten accustomed to skating with Krejci over the last several years, he hasn’t been disappointed with the performance of his new-look line.

“I think when you play with a guy so long, and you build that chemistry, and you play off one another and you know each others tendencies and where to go, you do miss him when he’s not in the lineup — especially that caliber of a player,” Lucic said. “But you still try to bring the same type of game that you know you can bring, regardless of who you’re playing with. For myself. It’s pretty simple: Just playing in straight lines, get in hard on the forecheck and doing stuff like that.

“I’ve played before with Kells, and we’ve had success together in playing with one another. I thought we had a pretty good game against Ottawa [on Nov. 1]. There’s a lot of things I think we could improve on from last night, but we had a good practice here today, and I think Griff’s come in and played really well this year.

“We’ve got to do whatever we can to be at our best and contribute to this team’s success every night, and that’s what were looking to do, night in and night out.”

Character-Building Wins

Boston’s 2-1 overtime win over Florida on Tuesday night marked their second overtime victory in the span of three games.

Given the rocky start to the season, that type of character win is certainly an encouraging sign moving forward.

“It probably wasn’t the best two periods last game, but still, we were able to rally back and have a good third period and show character and get a win out of that,” Lucic said. “Sometimes, the games don’t go your way, but you’re still able to get the two points out of it. All in all, I think our game is starting to come. [We’re] doing a better job of keeping pucks out of our net as a five-man unit in the D-zone, and if we can keep that up and keep playing together and coming up the ice together and supporting each other and playing like a five-man unit, we’ll continue having success.”

The Bruins were far from satisfied with their effort against Florida, though it did earn them their third straight victory. Primarily, Julien reiterated the team’s need for better puck movement, and the need to initiative clean breakouts out of the defensive zone.

That, he said, is where the B’s offensive game starts, and without those clean breakouts, they are fighting an uphill battle.

“When our puck movement isn’t as good, it really takes away a lot of a big part of our game because we’re a team that when we break well out of our own end, [and] we get some speed going through the neutral zone, our offensive game just follows from there,” Julien said. “When we don’t come out of our own end cleanly, it’s almost like we have to struggle through the breakout through the neutral zone, and even getting the puck in and retrieving it. So I think that’s the part yesterday that we had a tough time — coming out of our own end, or getting that part of our game going."

Still, resilience has emerged as a prominent theme for the B’s over the last handful of games. The clutch goals have been there. The team no longer gets discouraged if it goes down by a goal — something it struggled with through the first week or so of the season.

And the B’s have managed to right the ship despite injuries to key players such as Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Krug and Miller.

“The character that we showed just by not letting ourselves get pushed out of the game and continuing to battle and battle, and winning it in overtime, is a credit to our group,” Julien said.

Marchand, who netted the game-winner in overtime, also accounted for the game-winner in overtime against Buffalo less than a week ago. The forward now has six points in his last three games, stepping up his play at precisely the time when this team has need its leaders the most.

“I think [there are] different aspects of our game where we’re doing some good things — we’re cleaning up our D-zone a little better,” Marchand said. “Last game was a bit of an exception, but against Ottawa, we had a very, very tight D-zone, breaking out well, and we’re playing in the system a lot better, which is what we have to do.

“I think if we do that, we believe in the system and work hard, we should be OK.”

And though Marchand’s game has clearly surged in tandem with the team’s recent successes, he is careful to avoid getting too high — just like he avoids getting too low when his game isn’t flowing as well.

“I think when you go into a game, you feel confident, and the biggest thing is you want to help the team but stay even-keeled,” he said. “You don’t want to get too high or too low and try to ride the waves. When things are going well, it’s nice, and when they’re not, you just got to try and find a way to work out of it.

“Right now, the amount of injuries we have, we all have to step up a little more, and hopefully we can continue to do that tomorrow night.”

The B’s can all agree that for now, they have found something that seemed to be missing over the first stretch of games this season. They are finding ways to win games even when the breaks aren’t going their way. They are finding ways to dig deep and keep fighting until they get that game-tying or game-winning goal instead of getting deflated.

They have rediscovered their character in the dressing room, and it is translating into success.

“I think it’s what we were lacking early on — we just seemed like we didn’t have any life on the bench or in the room,” Marchand said. “Now, we have that, and it’s carrying onto the ice, and it’s helping a lot more.”

Most importantly, the Bruins are playing as a team and refusing to make excuses.

“You look at last year, we never had a stretch where we lost more than two games in a row, and that’s something to be proud of — that’s pretty impressive, what we were able to accomplish last year, but sometimes, you have to go through hard times and adversity to know how to deal with it when it happens in a stage where it’s most important, like the playoffs,” Lucic said. “Right now, it’s still a battle to get two points every night, and for a lot of guys, they’re still working hard and still trying to find their game and trying to get results out of working hard and doing the right thing.

“So we’re moving things in the right direction, but it’s up to us to keep that going and not being satisfied and keep the foot on the gas pedal.”

Morrow Impressing

A little over a week ago, Joe Morrow was one of Providence’s prized defensive assets.

Seven days later, things are a little bit different.

Morrow was recalled from Providence one week ago after Krug went down with a broken finger, which will sideline him for 2-3 weeks. Since then, he has made his NHL debut, he has played in three straight games and he has seriously impressed his head coach.

In fact, Julien said he was impressed Morrow’s play last year in Providence and was eager to see what the defenseman could do in this year’s training camp.

“He comes in here in camp and has a lot of confidence in himself and doesn’t get rattled, and that’s a pretty good quality to have,” Julien said. “Some guys get rattled and… he doesn’t seem to get fazed by much, so that’s a good thing to have as a player sometimes — short-term memory, or confidence. He’s been good that way.”

Morrow — Pittsburgh’s first-round draft pick in 2011, whom the B’s acquired via trade in the summer of 2013 — seems to be doing all of the little things right. He makes good plays, he stays calm out on the ice no matter who he’s playing with — or against — and most importantly, he is never afraid to make a mistake. He just plays his game.

“He’s coachable — very coachable — and at the same time, I like the fact that he’s confident,” Julien said. “You like seeing that [as] a coach. You don’t like seeing a player who’s afraid to make a mistake. You like seeing a player who wants to go out there and play, and for most of the time, he’s making good decisions.

“I think he’s got a good first pass, which is a quality that you need in a defenseman, and he’s a pretty solid individual, too. He doesn’t have to run anybody through the boards, but he’s certainly in there in the battles and holding his own and, on a lot of occasions, will come up with the puck.”

The B’s defensive corps hasn’t had anything easy this season. Given a rash of injuries, the B’s are without three regulars and are relying on Morrow, as well as fellow rookies David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman, to help them weather the storm.

Some guys have picked up additional ice time — lots of it. Others have assumed special teams duties. All of them, though, have used this challenge as an opportunity to step up.

Miller went down on Oct. 18 at Buffalo. Chara suffered an injury to the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee five days later, and five days after that, the injury bug bit Krug.

But since the first injury to Miller, Boston has won six of eight, and while that is obviously a testament to the team’s resilience, it is also a testament to the composure of the young players on back end in particular.

“I guess things have just fallen into place with certain players being in their right spots, and although we’ve had injuries, we’ve had some younger guys come in and they’ve done a good job on the back end,” Julien said. “Most of the injuries are on the back end — most of them — and the guys that are replacing them are doing a good job.”

Wednesday’s Practice Lineup

Forwards

Milan LucicChris KellySeth Griffith

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronReilly Smith

Matt FraserCarl SoderbergLoui Eriksson

Daniel PailleGregory CampbellSimon Gagne

Defensemen

Dennis SeidenbergDougie Hamilton

Joe MorrowAdam McQuaid

David WarsofskyZach Trotman

Matt Bartkowski

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg

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