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Practice Notebook: Krejci Skates Again But Still Awaits Medical Clearance

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — Nothing is set in stone yet, but by all indications, David Krejci is getting closer to returning to the Boston Bruins’ lineup.

The center, who has missed eight consecutive games and 14 of the Bruins’ last 16 games with an undisclosed injury, has practiced with the team for two straight days, but still, the question remains: Will he be in the lineup when the B’s take on the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden on Thursday night?

“Obviously, I would love to play, but we have to discuss it with the doctors,” Krejci said following Wednesday’s session at TD Garden. “I feel much better. It’s been a good week. We worked hard [last week], and the last couple days I was skating with the team, it was pretty good. So we’ve got to talk to with the doctors, and we’ll see.”

Until Head Coach Claude Julien is given the go-ahead from the team’s medical personnel, he will operate under the assumption that he doesn’t have Krejci at his disposal.

“I haven’t been told either way,” Julien said. “Until I’m told he can play, I can’t count on him. Nobody’s told me anything. He’s practiced two days but [has] got to be medically released before I can use him.”

The team is proceeding with caution for good reason: When the Bruins get Krejci back, they want him to be back for good. Twice this season, the pivot has returned but then regressed and has been forced to miss more time.

Krejci refuses to let that happen again.

“It happened to me twice, so it’s in the back of my head, and it’s not something that I would love to think about,” he said. “But at the end of the day, when the decision comes that I can play, then obviously [I’ll] get a little nervous — but that’s going to happen if I’m ready, or close to being ready. I’ll be nervous until I have that first game under my belt and I’m ready for the next one.

“So it is what it is. I’m just going to work hard and try to get back and stay in the lineup.”

Dealing with an injury is new territory for Krejci. Dealing with an injury that seems to keep recurring is even murkier, and Krejci admitted that being patient with the injury has been difficult. Still, he knows his best shot at getting back to 100 percent is taking it day by day and giving himself the necessary time to return to full strength.

“This is definitely something new,” he said. “First time it happened, I thought, yeah, it is what it is, I’ll come back, and let’s go, you know? But it happened again a second time — same thing. So it is what it is, but this is something I have to deal with, and I guess it’s good that it happened at the beginning of the year instead of April or March.

“So hopefully I’ll be a little bit more prepared when I come back, and no setbacks, and I’ll be good to go.”

While the team embarked on its four-game West Coast road swing last week, Krejci began skating with Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides. Krejci first returned to the ice on Tuesday, Dec. 2. Wednesday marked his eighth day on the ice, which, as he said, already amounts to more consecutive days of skating than he strung together the last two times he tried to make a comeback. So far, so good.

“When you skate on your own, you start feeling better eventually, but with the guys — with the team — it’s something else,” he said. “You battle, you do some line drills, so it always helps. I felt alright. I felt I was better every day, so [I’ll] just talk to the doctors and go from there.”

Though Krejci’s status may remain unclear, his desire to get back into game action is anything but. Watching games from press level — or worse, on TV while his teammates are on the road — is not something he enjoys.

“It’s not good to have a break like that,” he said. “It’s tough to watch hockey games. I’ve been there before, and it’s not fun. So I was trying to do everything I could to work hard, with good people to work with. So I felt good enough to skate with the team yesterday and good enough today again. So we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

And though the injury seems to have lingered throughout the first two months of the season, Krejci doesn’t expect that trend to continue. When he beats this injury, it will be gone for good.

“I feel like once I’m back, and once I get through the first game and I feel good, then no setbacks,” he said. “I don’t feel like this is an injury that’s going to bother me the whole year.

“I think when it’s done, it’s done. We can move on.”

No Dropoff Coming

Given the fact that Krejci and captain Zdeno Chara skated with the team on Wednesday for the second consecutive day, the rest of the Bruins obviously felt a boost. They don’t know exactly when their captain and one of their top centers are going to return, but it seems like it could be soon, and given the injuries that have plagued this team since the 2014-15 season began, that is a relief.

“Obviously, it’s huge,” said forward Milan Lucic. “We had a top power play because of those two guys last year, and nothing’s set in stone right now with them coming back, but good to see that they’re making progress.

“You just want to see them be healthy, more than anything. You can see that over the last couple days, and like I said, nothing’s set in stone, but good to have them back out there with the group.”

With the relief that comes from their possible return, though, comes the fear that the rest of the Bruins could take their collective foot off the gas pedal. Fortunately, the Bruins don’t see any threat that that will happen.

“That’s the last thing you need to do, is relax,” Lucic said. “It’s kind of like when you make trades and you get new guys coming in — teams have tendencies to kind of sit back and watch and wait and see what the new guy’s going to do. With Zee, who’s been out of the lineup for the last [19] games, there is that tendency to kind of just sit back and watch and expect him to do everything, but unfortunately, you can’t do that.

“You've got to keep pushing, and push with him, because you know he’s going to be excited to be back and establish his presence early — as early as he can — and you got to be there right with him with that same type of emotion and keep pushing. If you look at the standings, we’re in a real tight spot right now, so we can’t afford to take any more steps back; we've got to keep pushing for more.”

As it stands, the Bruins are clinging to a playoff spot and sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference Standings. With two of their next three matchups coming against two of the top teams in the stacked Western Conference, they know they have their work cut out for them, with or without Krejci and Chara.

“We can’t look at it like they’re going to be our saviors,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “We’ve just got to keep competing. There’s a reason that we were able to put together the record that we did when they were out of the lineup, and hopefully, whenever they do return, we can continue that same mindset.

“Hopefully, they’ll just step in with us and help continue that.”

The Bruins may be getting Chara and Krejci back before they next take the ice for game action, but even when those players do return, the B’s realize they have to keep fighting just as hard, if not harder.

“I think expectations are high, and high for a reason,” said forward Chris Kelly. “We hold ourselves to a pretty high standard, and we want to play, and play well every night. Certain nights, that hasn’t been the case, and everyone goes through injuries. If you think you’re going to use that as an excuse, that’s not going to fly.

“A lot of teams lose good players for longer periods of time than we have, and they have had success. I think we need to realize that yeah, we have significant guys out, but things shouldn’t change that much — we’re still a good hockey team. We still have good players here. Certain games, we need to be better.”

Chicago In Town

The Chicago Blackhawks are set to visit TD Garden on Thursday night for the first and only time this season, and they are coming into Boston on a tear.

The Blackhawks have won seven straight games, including Tuesday night’s shootout victory over New Jersey. It’s no secret that they have a plethora of offensive weapons, and despite a recent injury to starting goaltender Corey Crawford, they have managed to keep rolling just fine.

Currently, Chicago boasts a 19-8-1 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. Clearly, the Bruins know a tough task awaits them on Thursday night.

“They’re a solid team throughout their lineup, and they skate well,” Kelly said. “They play their game the right way. You need to be at your best in order to compete and have a chance against them, so this will be a great test for us.

“As a player, I think that’s one of the things you look forward to throughout the course of the year, is challenges — and this will be a good one for us.”

After a tough three-game losing streak out West, the Bruins rebounded in the road trip finale with a 5-2 victory over Arizona on Saturday night. Now, their task is to propel that win into a new winning streak.

“Chicago’s played very good as of late, and they have lot of offensive threats and bring a lot of speed at the same time,” said forward Daniel Paille. “But for us, we’re going to have to maintain our defensive structure that we’re capable of playing, and have a really strong all-out defensive game, and make sure that we limit the scoring chances to single digits.”

The Bruins haven’t managed to forge two or more consecutive wins since they beat Carolina, St. Louis and Columbus from Nov. 15 to Nov. 22. Since then, they are 2-5, and top of mind for Julien right now is making sure that the winning ways resurface and continue.

“We need to get ourselves going and get some consecutive wins,” Julien said. “One at a time — I can use all the cliches you want, but the bottom line is, that’s the truth. I don’t care who we’re playing [Thursday]; we have to know how important that win is, and if we want to get ourselves back into the race where we think we should be, we have to beat teams like Chicago.

“They’ve won seven in a row, they’ve been really good — very confident. Right now, it’s up to us to come in with one of our best games, and if we do that, we’re giving ourselves a chance.”

Paille, Soderberg Practice

Forwards Daniel Paille and Carl Soderberg missed Tuesday’s practice at TD Garden with what Julien deemed a virus, but on Wednesday, both of them were back on the ice.

After practice, Paille told the media he is back to feeling like his old self.

“The last few days, I was a little bit ill, but today, woke up, felt a little bit better, had more energy and was able to skate, obviously, today,” he said.

A couple of nights ago, Paille said he awoke in the middle of the night feeling “off.” He took the team’s scheduled off day on Monday to recover, and early on Tuesday morning, he called the Bruins staff to report his symptoms and was told to stay home and get better.

“[They] just told me that it was some type of virus, and I don’t think it was the flu or anything like that,” Paille said. “[I] drank a lot of water and made sure I was capable of going today, and it worked out. So just happy that I was able to come back.”

And just to be clear, Paille said he did not have the mumps.

“It wasn’t that, thankfully,” he said with a laugh. “We definitely took some precautions to not get that, and I believe I had a shot when I was younger to avoid that. So it wasn’t the mumps.”

Gagne Releases Statement

On Tuesday, Juilen announced that forward Simon Gagne had taken an indefinite personal leave of absence. On Wednesday afternoon, Gagne released the following statement via the Bruins:

I have taken a personal leave of absence from the Boston Bruins in order to return home to Quebec to be with my father, who was recently diagnosed with liver cancer. The doctors — who have been great throughout this whole process — unfortunately informed us that his cancer is not curable.

I greatly appreciate the support and understanding that the Bruins organization and my teammates have given to me and my family since I let them know the news and I look forward to rejoining them when the time is appropriate. Until then, I would kindly ask everyone to respect my family and I's privacy during this difficult time.

Wednesday’s Practice Lineup

Forwards:

Milan LucicDavid KrejciLoui Eriksson

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronReilly Smith

Chris KellyCarl SoderbergMatt Fraser

Daniel PailleGregory CampbellSeth Griffith

Defensemen:

Zdeno CharaDougie Hamilton

Dennis SeidenbergKevan Miller

Zach TrotmanMatt Bartkowski

Torey KrugJoe Morrow

Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg

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