Jarome Iginla's departure means there is an opportunity for Loui Eriksson to move into a more prominent role with the Boston Bruins. At least that's the way Bruins coach Claude Julien sees it now as he contemplates what his lineup could look like Oct. 8, when Boston opens the 2014-15 regular season against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Julien, who spoke on a conference call Thursday to announce the hiring of Joe Sacco as an assistant coach, said Eriksson will be given the opportunity to take Iginla's minutes and, ideally, account for the production Iginla gave Boston last season.
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Iginla had 30 goals and 31 assists but signed a three-year, $16 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche on July 1. Eriksson had 10 goals and 27 assists in 61 games last season but was sidetracked by concussions.
"We don't feel like we're in a real tough situation," Julien said. "We lost Jarome, but I think Loui Eriksson is a player that can be even better than he was last year. I think we started seeing that at the end of the year and he could be a replacement for Jarome."
Eriksson started last season as the right wing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but Reilly Smith took over that spot permanently in December, when Eriksson was out of the lineup with his second concussion of the season.
Eriksson closed strong, with four goals and 13 assists in the final 22 games of the regular season. He averaged nearly 70 points per season while with the Dallas Stars from 2008-12, and had 29 points in 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Julien said Chris Kelly, who had surgery in May after sitting out the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of a back injury, will be healthy. Assuming Eriksson moves up to take Iginla's spot in the top six, Kelly could rejoin Carl Soderberg as Eriksson's replacement on the third line.
Boston also is hoping forwards Justin Florek, Ryan Spooner, Matt Fraser and Alexander Khokhlachev push for more playing time. They spent most of last season with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League. Boston also hasn't ruled out the possibility David Pastrnak, the No. 25 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, could make the team.
"There are just a couple of things where we have to resolve," Julien said. "At the same time we have some young players in Providence that are going to deserve a look, so when training camp starts I think a lot of those decisions will be taking place."