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Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith Continuing to Get Up to Speed

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — With just two preseason games remaining for the Bruins and Opening Night looming on Oct. 8, Head Coach Claude Julien knows there are a handful of of tough decisions to make in his immediate future.

“Lucky for me, I’m not alone in having to make those decisions,” Julien said, following a hard 90-minute practice at TD Garden. “We have group discussions with coaches, and obviously upper management sit down and share our thoughts on everybody.

“At the end of the day, a decision has to be made, but I’m not always the one that has to make the last decision because it [entails] a lot more than just saying, ‘This is the guy.’ There’s cap issues. There’s all kinds of different things that come with it. Obviously in this era, it’s a lot more complicated than it used to be.”

One of those tough decisions could center around 2014 first-round draft pick David Pastrnak, who has been practicing with the group for several days now after missing time at the beginning of training camp due to a tweaked shoulder.

Julien said that pending medical clearance, Pastrnak — who has yet to suit up for an NHL preseason game — will get the green light for at least one of Boston’s final two games (Friday vs. the Islanders and Saturday vs. Detroit).

“The biggest thing we can hope for right now…is that we get to see him play,” Julien said. “I’d like to see him play and see how he handles an NHL game, and hopefully I get the news that we all want sometime [Thursday].”

Boston further trimmed its roster on Wednesday, releasing Ryan Spooner, Justin Florek, Alexander Khokhlachev and goaltender Jeremy Smith from Boston’s camp. All four players have since reported for Providence’s training camp.

Camp invite Simon Gagne, one of several players still competing for an open forward spot in Boston, is doing his best to tune out the pressure over the next few days. Instead, he’ll focus on doing what he has been doing up to this point: continue finding ways to improve.

“I’m feeling better and better right now,” Gagne said. “At first, my legs felt a little bit sore, and it was a little bit hard to skate, but now I feel like that’s gone, that’s behind me. I’m starting to feel a lot better. The legs are starting to get [back to] normal again and starting to feel pretty good in practice, and games, too, where I get my speed back.

“My goal is to get better and better every game, play a little bit better and see if I can improve. I feel like I still have places for improvement, but at least it’s going in the right direction where I want to go.”

Lucic Still Progressing

Milan Lucic played in his first preseason game on Saturday night at Detroit, but his first opportunity to play with longtime linemate David Krejci came in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the Islanders.

Tuesday also marked his first opportunity of the preseason to play alongside right wing Loui Eriksson.

Lucic, who is continuing to get back up to speed following offseason wrist surgery, is well aware of Eriksson’s talent. Now, it’s about trying to generate chemistry as a line.

“Obviously, he’s a great player,” Lucic said. “Last year, he had some injuries to start the year and [he was] kind of coming into a new organization — new systems and stuff like that. But you saw how he was able to progress as a player as the season went along, and you got to see the talent that he has. You saw that in Dallas, and I think you can see it in him already — that he has prepared himself real well to have a big season.

“So knowing his playmaking ability and his overall abilities as a hockey player, I think it’s a lot to look forward to, a lot to be excited about, so I think that’s the feeling around us as a line right now.”

Smith Getting Up to Speed

Restricted free agent Reilly Smith joined training camp on Monday morning after signing a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the team. Though he didn’t play in Tuesday night’s game, he now has several practice sessions under his belt — including a double-session on Tuesday — and he is confident that he’ll be ready to roll when the puck drops in Bridgeport, Conn., on Friday.

“I feel good,” he said. “Feel like it hasn’t taken me too long to get back to the swing of things. The pace might be a little different, [and the] transition this weekend — actually getting into some games — but it should be fun.

“I feel like I haven’t played in about six months, so first couple of shifts should be a little bit of a struggle, but hopefully shouldn’t take too long to get my feet under me.”

Once training camp began in Boston, Smith and fellow RFA Torey Krug kept themselves busy skating together in Connecticut. Their conditioning has left Julien pleasantly surprised.

“When you’re not in the environment of having players around you and contact and battles, you worry a little bit about that,” Julien said. “Right now, they haven’t shown any signs of guys that are really lacking. Again, the same thing as I said earlier with players — we haven’t seen them in a game situation, and no doubt we want to see them play in these next two games. Hopefully that’s the case and they get an opportunity to show how good of shape they’re in.”

On Thursday, Smith suited up in a gold practice jersey with Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, and he admitted that it felt a little bit different than it usually does when Patrice Bergeron centers him.

“Today was a little bit mixed up — we were all playing different spots than were used to, so I think we messed up a couple of drills,” he said with a smile. “I think that’s to be expected without Bergy telling us where to go. Usually he leads us... But it will be nice to get back together with them and get back into some games.”

The last time Smith was on the ice for game action was May 14, when Boston suffered a Game 7 loss to Montreal in the second round of the playoffs. Needless to say, he’s eager to start the 2014-15 campaign.

“Hopefully [I’ll] have some chemistry with my linemates and get back to where we were at the end of last year,” he said. “I think the quickest we can do that, the more success I’ll have and be able to help this team.”

Bergy Gets an Off Day, Campbell Starts Skating

Patrice Bergeron was not on the ice for practice on Thursday, but there’s no cause for concern — Julien said he was simply given an off day.

Julien also mentioned that forward Gregory Campbell, who has been out for the entirety of training camp with a core injury, began skating on his own on Thursday morning. It is, however, unlikely that Campbell will be available for the season opener versus Philadelphia on Oct. 8.

“I think [he] will be doubtful to start the season because starting to skate and getting into practices in full contact and game shape is going to be a little tough for him to do that in this short span,” Julien said. “The good thing is he’s skating, and hopefully progresses in the right direction.”

Thursday’s Practice Lineup

Forwards

White: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Loui Eriksson

Gold: Brad Marchand - David Pastrnak - Reilly Smith

Grey: Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Matt Fraser

Merlot: Daniel Paille - Craig Cunningham - Jordan Caron/Bobby Robins/Simon Gagne

Defensemen

Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton

Dennis Seidenberg - Johnny Boychuk

Adam McQuaid - Matt Bartkowski

Kevan Miller - David Warsofsky/Torey Krug

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg, Malcolm Subban

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