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Krejci's Status Unknown Heading Into Florida Back-to-Back

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

SUNRISE, Fla. - David Krejci has spent 13 games watching from afar as the Bruins cling to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

After four weeks out of the lineup, the center might be ready for a return this weekend after recovering from a partially torn MCL in his left knee, but he might not.

The Bruins would welcome the boost of the leader back in the lineup, having dropped three straight games, with their latest a 6-4 loss to the Senators on Thursday night. They have earned just one point in those three games.

But Krejci's situation wasn't any more apparent on Friday, when the team traveled to Sunrise, Fla. from Ottawa before facing the Panthers on Saturday night. Krejci and the Bruins quickly rushed onto the ice to get in a quick practice.

Is the centerman still a possibility to return on Saturday?

"I don't know," Head Coach Claude Julien said from the BB&T Center in Sunrise following practice. "I haven't talked to the trainers yet. We got dressed in a hurry today and just got out there, so we haven't had a chance to regroup yet."

Krejci wore a gold jersey for the roughly 20-minute practice, skating with Patrice Bergeorn, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith.

"I had him with the white line the other day. It's just - I've moved him around and at the same time, it's good for Bergy sometimes to take a little break there and stuff like that if need be," said Julien, of the jersey switch. "But no, he just had a gold sweater today, the other day he had a white one, so nothing's been kind of decided here on where he's going to end up."

From the outset of his injury, Krejci has stressed that as soon as he feels 100 percent, he will return.

He wasn't going to try and push it to come back sooner, even with the team amidst the playoff push, but he's obviously itching to get back. Now he's just waiting for that 100 percent benchmark. Stops and starts, and getting into more intense battling, are areas he's focusing on to make sure he's ready to go.

With the quick turnaround from arriving at the rink on Friday, to getting on the ice for practice, there wasn't time on Friday for Krejci to do his usual treatment and stretching before hitting the ice.

"[On Saturday], I need to do exact stretch I like to do, the treatment before skate, we're going to do a little bit more of stop and start, so we'll see [Saturday] morning," said Krejci.

His original timetable was four to six weeks, but players don't generally like timetables.

"I actually hate when there's a timetable," Krejci admitted. "It's just an awful thing. It's in your head, you know. When it was last Friday, I was at three weeks, and in my head, it was next week is four weeks and lots of people expect me to play because that's going to be the fourth week. But at that time, I felt far away from playing today."

"It's just, it's always in your head and you're trying to get back as soon as you can, but it's just a weird thing to set a timetable, especially the day after you get hurt, so I just want to work, work hard, and once I'm 100 percent, I'm 100 percent, I don't really care if it's four weeks, five weeks, six weeks, who cares, when I'm ready, I'll play."

He's hoping that comes sooner rather than later, and he's open to wherever the coaches want him.

"I guess the decision's going to have to be made [Saturday]," said Krejci. "I'm going to push myself a little bit harder, get a good stretch before, do my treatments and stuff and try to practice just like I would play a game, and if I feel 100 percent, talk to coaches and if they'll put me in, they'll put me in."

"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."

Spooner "Not Coming Out of Our Lineup"

Through the 13 games Krejci has missed, Ryan Spooner has filled in admirably, putting up the first five goals of his NHL career, along with six assists. He potted two goals in Ottawa on Thursday, including a power play tally that snapped an 0-for-16 stretch.

Spooner has pushed opposing defensemen back on their heels with his speed, and together with Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak, the trio has produced down the stretch despite spending more time in the defensive zone than they would like.

When Krejci returns, the lines will be tweaked. Will Spooner stay in the lineup at center? Or maybe get another shot at the wing? Regardless of where, he has made a case to remain with Boston.

"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 stated. "And he deserves it right now, so we'll have to figure out what we want to do from there."

Smith Fighting It

About midway through the second period on Thursday night in Ottawa, Reilly Smith found himself riding the bench after a turnover led to a Senators shorthanded tally that gave them an important 4-3 edge en route to a 6-4 victory.

He received one more shift the rest of the game, halfway through the third period, with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell. He lost a handle on the puck in the neutral zone and Ottawa was off to the races, forcing Tuukka Rask to stand strong with the game knotted at 4-4 at the time.

"I'm not playing my best hockey right now, so, when you are, your confidence is always going to be higher," said Smith. "So it's something that I have to work on, and hopefully the next couple of games, I can get back up there."

With Smith's reduced ice time, Julien had Max Talbot skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for the most part. Loui Eriksson took a few shifts in Pastrnak's spot, helping to better balance out the offense and provide defensive reliability on each line with the Bruins chasing the game. Nothing about it felt good for Smith.

"You try to forget about if you made a mistake, or whatever plays happened the shifts before and you try to work in a positive sense and try to build on that," said Smith. "And try to get back to the little things, and build your game off that."

"He's been really struggling and at one point, you can try and help him out, but I think he's going to have to help himself," said Julien. "And sometimes you've got to simplify your game and not worry so much about production, but more about starting to win some battles and making some good plays here."

"He's had an up and down year, and that's the reality of things, and we've seen him when he's good and he's a much better player than he's shown."

The B's bench boss was asked if a night in the press box may help Smith.

"We'll see. I don't' know. I can't answer that right now," he said. "We have just a very minimal number of players right now, so it's a little tougher to make those decisions right now. I wish I had those options that were a little bit at more at my disposal, but you've kind of got to try and work with them for the time being."

Smith is scoreless in 12 games, and has gone six games without a point.

"You get benched because you're not playing very well and that was the case," Smith said. "Definitely, you can use it as a motivator and that's something you try to do. I think the best thing you can do is just build off the little things and if you can do that and string a couple good shifts together, I think you can get back in the right direction."

No Rest for the Weary

This weekend caps off a stretch of 11 games in 18 days for the Bruins (they are currently 5-2-2 through the first nine games), including six on the road and three back-to-back sets. They've been through this before, and clearly know how to take care of themselves, but especially with travel factored in, how can that not be taxing?

"This is where you've got to be mentally strong," said Julien. "You hope that you've got enough guys in there that have been through it that are going to kind of take charge in the room, and we can say all we want, but at the same time, the ownership is in there to go out there and do it, and I feel we've got a lot of guys that have been through it, so it's a matter of going out there and doing it."

"I know we're in a situation right now that's hectic for a lot of people, but at the same time, this is hockey. The teams that are trying to catch up to us are in the same boat and the teams that are just barely ahead of us are probably looking behind them as well, so it's a time of year when you've got to focus on yourself and not look around too much."

"If you want to be there, then it's in your own hands. It's not in somebody else's hands to do it for you, and I think that's what we've got to do here, is look at ourselves here and not look for help - but help ourselves."

Responding to Pressure

Thursday's game in Ottawa was important. The Sens are now just two points back of the Bruins with a game in hand.

The implications of Saturday's matchup with the Panthers will be no different, as Florida trails Boston by five points. The Bruins just need to come out on the winning end this time around. There are only 11 games left in the season.

"Has to be a full effort from everybody," said Captain Zdeno Chara. "We can't have anybody taking a night off. At this point of the season, you need anybody who's going to be dressed to play to their full potential. The attitude, the effort, has to be there."

"We know we're playing good teams and it's obviously a battle for every point."

Rare Night for Rask, Bruins' Defense

Rask set a season-high in games play on Thursday, appearing in his 59th game of the season. He played in 58 in 2013-14. Despite the workload, he has been sharp. He's been Boston's best workhorse for the past few months.

Before surrendering five goals to the Sens, Rask had been 4-0-1 in his previous five starts, with a 1.38 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.

The run-and-gun transition style of play dictated by Ottawa played a role, but the Bruins have to be better protecting the house. They know that. Scoring four goals is more than enough for them to pull out wins. They'll look to tighten up their defensive game, and five-man support against Florida.

Carl Soderberg Snaps Drought

Carl Soderberg had enough chances against Buffalo on Tuesday in Boston that he was bound to finally find the back of the net sometime soon.

That breakthrough came less than a minute into Thursday's game in Ottawa, when he tied it up 1-1 just 40 seconds after the Sens had rushed out to a 1-0 lead. He powered off the halfwall into the slot after a touch pass from Loui Eriksson, and wristed in his first goal in 25 games.

"It's getting better, it's getting better," Julien said of Soderberg's game. "And not just [in Ottawa], I thought the game before against Buffalo, he was playing better and he seems a little bit more engaged and at the same time, it's just with him, he's got to settle down a little bit. He was fighting the puck, because he was trying a little too hard, but his game's coming around. I liked his game even better [in Ottawa], so those are good signs for him."

Practice Lineup March 20

Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Krejci - Reilly Smith

White: Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - David Pastrnak

Gray: Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Burgundy: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Reilly Smith - Brian Ferlin

Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton

Matt Bartkowski - Dennis Seidenberg

Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg

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