After Monday’s practice at TD Garden, Head Coach Claude Julien said Krejci will travel with the team for the three-game swing, though whether or not he will play remains to be seen.
“I can’t guarantee that,” Julien said. “I hope so.”
Nobody on the Bruins would deny that Krejci’s return would be a boost. Coaches and players alike have contended that they cannot rely on one player to be the team’s savior, but Krejci certainly brings an offensive spark that this team is currently lacking.
In Krejci’s absence over the last 10 games, the Bruins have gone 3-7 and have been unable to score more than two goals in two of their last nine contests. The hope is that when Krejci returns, he will bring some stability to this offense — and some stability to the line combinations, which have frequently been shuffled, either due to injury or in an effort to produce a spark.
“With David, he's our offensive force,” said forward Daniel Paille. “He creates a lot of opportunities for not only our power play, but 5-on-5 as well, and having him out there, it's good to see. Hopefully that's a good sign for him that he is coming [back] soon, and we're hoping that he comes when he's ready.”
Given the fact that the Bruins are facing three tough Western Conference teams in the Predators, the Wild and the Jets, there is no better time for Krejci to return.
“This is where we’re at,” Julien said. “We’re in a league of parity now, and it’s starting to become a cliche now to say there’s no easy games, but there is no easy games. This is what we have to do, especially in our situation. We’re in a battle here, and we can’t take any games lightly.
“In the past, there’s been teams that don’t take other teams as seriously as others, and they get burned with that. But we’re certainly not in that position to do that.”
The Bruins haven’t had much to smile about over the last couple of weeks. Wins and goals have been hard to come by, and though their in-game execution has been better of late, they haven’t gotten the results they want or need.
Still, as they continue to search for answers, they have made it a point to tune out the negativity.
“There is so much negativity around our team, and I think it’s all what we’re doing wrong, and we can’t win, and everything like that,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton. “I guess there’s games where you can get bounces and win and everything’s good, and you can play well and lose, and you’re unhappy. So I think right now, we just have to keep focusing on what we always talk about: working hard and winning battles and everything, and hopefully get some wins.”
That is not to say that the Bruins are blind to the fact that they have lost seven of their last nine. That is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. As Julien said, there isn’t a player on this team who enjoys losing.
“There’s nobody in that dressing room that enjoys seeing us where we are right now, so I don’t think that those guys don’t care,” Julien said. “I think what we have to find here is a solution — not wondering whether they care or not. And the solution is, we got to be able to find a little bit more out of everybody, and we need to step up, and that’s what you got to do when you’re in that situation.
“That’s what all teams have to do when they’re in that situation, so there’s no real mystery or surprise there. It’s up to us to battle our way out of it. Nobody’s going to do it for us. Nobody really cares whether we win or lose except for ourselves, so it’s up to us to battle our way out of it.”
The Bruins are not accustomed to being in the situation they find themselves in at present: in sixth place in their division, in 10th place in the conference, out of the playoff race if the postseason began today. But the accountability is there — particularly after Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa — as is the determination to change the course of this season.
“I do think Ottawa is a good team, but we can't be losing to teams that are right near us or below us in the standings,” Paille said. “For us to success, we're going to have to win those games, and I think losing that, I think everyone realized that we need to be better.
“It’s important for us to just realize what the main goal is, and that's to get a playoff spot, and show the desperation that is there at times, and to be there throughout the whole game.”
Cunningham and Lucic Reunited
When Milan Lucic was beginning the last year of his junior hockey career with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, Craig Cunningham was just beginning his.
Now that Cunningham has rejoined the Bruins — he was recalled from Providence last week — he and his former junior teammate have been reunited once again. During Monday’s practice, they skated together on a line with David Krejci and Chris Kelly taking turns at center.
“It’s a privilege, playing with him and Kells, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to get out there and play with those guys,” Cunningham said after practice. “It’s exciting every day, coming to the rink.”
And given the fact that Lucic is there to guide him as he learns the ropes of this league, it’s a bit easier to adjust as well. Lucic has been a mentor of sorts for Cunningham dating back to their days with the Giants, and that remains the case today.
“He always has said stick with it — you never know what’s going to happen, you never know when your opportunity is going to come around,” Cunningham said. “That’s the biggest thing about being in the American League. When you’re there for an extended period of time and you don’t really know what’s going to happen, you can get a little bit disheartened, and you start thinking a little bit.
“But now that I’ve been around a while, you realize how the business works a little bit. It’s important every day to show up to the rink with a smile on your face and be a good teammate and be ready to work hard.”
To Lucic, Cunningham is still the same kid he was back in Vancouver, albeit a little bit older: He’s still the player who shows up every day with that trademark smile and willingness to work.
“He was a little bit more of a shy kid at the time,” Lucic said with a smile, recalling the first year he played with Cunningham. “He was a 16-year-old, moving away from home, and a new environment, new everything. He definitely did a lot of growing up in that year, and he’s done a lot of growing up in the right way.
“I’m sure if you asked, he’d tell you the same thing: He learned a lot in that first year, especially [because] we had a pretty, I guess, a veteran team in junior hockey. He stepped in, always had a smile on his face, and you could tell he was becoming a good player.”
And though both players have grown older and wiser, some things haven’t changed — namely, the first impression Lucic presents.
“Pretty intimidating guy,” Cunningham said, grinning.
Lucic may still be intimidating, but he is also someone Cunningham knows he can learn from — and lean on.
“I was young when I joined the team, from a small town, and kind of wasn’t really sure what to expect, and that team was full of kind of guys like him,” Cunningham said. “At first, I found it intimidating. [He is] a guy that he talks, you listen, and you enjoy watching him play.
“He plays the game so hard, and not a lot of guys bring some of the elements he brings. So an intimidating guy who you looked up to, and you know you can talk to.”
Monday’s Practice Lineup
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith
Gray Jerseys: Milan Lucic, David Krejci/Chris Kelly, Craig Cunningham
White Jerseys: Matt Fraser, Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson
Burgundy Jerseys: Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Seth Griffith
Defensemen: Dougie Hamilton, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman, Torey Krug, Dennis Seidenberg
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg