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Krejci Still a Possibility to Return Thursday Against Anaheim

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON, Mass. - David Krejci is still looking at a possible return Thursday night at TD Garden.

It would mark his first game back after partially tearing the MCL in his left knee back on Feb. 20. He has been sidelined for 15 games heading into Thursday against Anaheim.

While there has been no change to his "day-to-day" status this week, the forward has taken advantage of the two heavy practice days on Tuesday and Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena, taking part in battling drills and making sure he has tested out his knee, especially with stops and starts.

"We'll see" has been the mantra from both Krejci and Head Coach Claude Julien since this past weekend, when Krejci traveled with the team on its three-game road trip.

A more definitive answer could come on Thursday morning, or, if Krejci is deemed a game-time decision, on Thursday night.

If the forward does indeed return, there's a chance that he could play on the right wing, with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. That is what practices have suggested, though Daniel Paille has also practiced on that line, with all four Bruins sporting the gold jerseys during skates.

"We'll find out," said Julien, when asked if he thinks Krejci can play on the wing.

As far as his progress, it's "as encouraging as it's been the last week," according to Julien.

Krejci has been fielding questions from reporters daily after pregame skates and practices. As has been the case every day, he again felt good after Wednesday's skate. He's adjusting to the knee brace, which he will wear through the end of the season, and the full practices have allowed him to ramp up his conditioning.

"Sometimes it's tough for guys to come back, but Krech missed time earlier in the year and he came back and he didn't look like he missed a beat," said Marchand. "So, Krech, with how talented he is and how hard he worked when he was out, I'm sure he's going to be back and feeling great again."

The idea of Krejci on Bergeron's wing was explored last week, when Krejci first started skating in the gold jersey with Bergeron, Marchand and, at the time, Reilly Smith, during a practice in Florida.

At the time, Julien was asked what the lineup might look like when Krejci returns, especially with the fairly consistent play (and speed) of Ryan Spooner and the trio of Milan Lucic, Spooner and David Pastrnak finding ways to produce, though their defensive game hasn't been as strong with the lack of experience.

"I think everybody here knows that Ryan Spooner's playing well, and I'm going to be honest with you, he's not coming out of our lineup, playing the way he is, and that's just doing the right thing," Julien had said. "And he deserves it right now, so we'll have to figure out what we want to do from there."

So, when Krejci returns, who sits? And where is Krejci best suited to start? That time is coming sooner rather than later, and Julien has no doubt gone over all of the options.

Thursday will provide more clarity, but for the meantime, let's think about what a Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci line might look like.

Bergeron's two-way reliability may open up Krejci more to use his creativity and opt for a shoot-first mentality, versus the playmaker mentality he's accustomed to - and Krejci has an arsenal of a shot when he wants to use it.

The biggest change, though, would come in coverage. While Krejci would likely end up back at center, eventually (if, indeed, he does start on the wing), being on the wing loosens up his job in the defensive zone.

During that first practice on Bergeron's wing in Florida, Krejci discussed what it might be like to play on the wing, as opposed to at center.

"I feel like if you play wing, it's maybe a little bit easier than playing center - at center you have to support the puck all over the ice and be basically everywhere, so on the right side, you just kind of make sure your D doesn't get the puck," he had said. "So you know, we'll see what happens, so like I said, I'm open for whatever."

"If I get a chance to play with Bergy, playing with one of the best two-way centers in the League, it would make it so much easier on myself, but once I'll be back on the ice, that means I'm ready to go and I'm ready to step in at any position."

After Wednesday's practice, Marchand was excited at the possibility of playing with Krejci.

"Hopefully we can connect and produce and the way that he cycles the puck down low, we felt good in practice," said Marchand. "We've been able to make plays and we feel pretty good."

But no matter what happens, the Bruins' situation, being one point behind Ottawa for a playoff spot with nine games to go, calls for much more than one player stepping into the lineup and providing a boost.

"There's potential there [with Krejci on the wing], but at the same time, I think it's unfair to put all the pressure on two or three guys," said Julien. "I think the pressure should be on all of us right now."

"So if we take it as a group, we have a much better chance of getting through this, than if you just rely on two, three guys."

Defense Corps Pushing Forward Without Hamilton

With Tuesday's news that Dougie Hamilton will be out indefinitely, the Bruins' defense corps took a hit.

Hamilton suffered the undisclosed injury during the second period of the game against the Florida Panthers this past Saturday (March 21). Hamilton is to be re-evaluated later this week.

"Obviously he's a big part of our team, but injuries do happen," said Chara, Hamilton's main defense partner. "We've dealt with that the whole year and we have to find a way to play without him."

In Hamilton's absence, Adam McQuaid has been practicing alongside Chara.

"It's one of those things, again, anytime someone gets injured, everyone kind of chips in, does things by committee, and this won't be the first time," said McQuaid. "Everyone brings what they do, and we just have to be at our best."

Practice Lineup March 25

Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Krejci - Daniel Paille

White: Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - David Pastrnak

Gray: Reilly Smith - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Burgundy: Chris Kelly - Gregory Campbell - Max Talbot - Brian Ferlin

Zdeno Chara - Adam McQuaid

Torey Krug - Dennis Seidenberg

Matt Bartkowski - Zach Trotman

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg

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