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Bruins' Krejci healthy, eager to find new linemates

by Matt Kalman

BOLTON, Mass. -- Life changed for Boston Bruins center David Krejci over the summer.

Krejci became a father for the first time when his daughter Elina was born about six weeks ago.

Luckily for the Bruins that wasn't the only change for Krejci. The 29-year-old, who's entering the first season of a six-year, $43.5 million contract he signed last fall, healed up after the most injury-plagued season of his NHL career.

Krejci was limited to 47 games for the Bruins, who missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. He missed 20 games over the first three months with an undisclosed injury widely believed to have been related to his hip or groin. Just when he was getting over that issue, he sustained a torn knee ligament Feb. 20 and missed 15 games until his March 26 return.

When the Bruins' season ended, Krejci said there was a chance he would need surgery on his mid-body injury. But before teeing off at the Bruins' annual charity golf tournament Monday, he said he opted to skip surgery after consulting with his doctors and instead took a couple weeks off. With training camp days away, Krejci expects to perform like the player who had 226 points in 281 regular-season games over the four seasons prior to 2014-15.

"Off the ice, in the gym, everything's been fine. I've been skating for a little more than a month now and felt good on the ice," said Krejci, who had 31 points last season. "So there shouldn't be any reason why I shouldn't be ready 100 percent."

The Bruins were 16-13-6 without Krejci in their lineup, 25-14-8 when he played. The two-time Olympian's presence in the lineup should make a difference and take some pressure off his teammates.

"I think it does that to everyone. I think when you bring in a guy like [Krejci], it definitely takes a lot of the load offensively and it definitely helps everyone out that way," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "So it's not just me but I think the whole team, it just helps everyone else to be better players."

While Krejci was healing during the offseason, the Bruins were making over their roster in an attempt to avoid another playoff-less spring. Don Sweeney took over for Peter Chiarelli as general manager and executed several trades and signings. One of Sweeney's biggest trades involved forward Milan Lucic, Krejci's regular left wing for five seasons, going to the Los Angeles Kings.

"It's going to be weird," Krejci said. "We've been together for a long time and now he's gone. So obviously that was a really sad day. But we have to understand that it's a business as well. And there was some upper-management changes and they're just trying to make our team better than last year and they did some changes. And I really like the team we have right now, so we'll see how that goes."

Prior to last season, Jarome Iginla's departure for the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent left Krejci and Lucic without a regular right wing. Now Krejci could wind up playing with two wings in their first season with Boston. Among those that could get a chance to play with Krejci are additions Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey, along with holdovers Brett Connolly and David Pastrnak. As a rookie last season, the Czech native Pastrnak found some chemistry on his countryman's right side.

Beleskey, whom the Bruins signed to a five-year, $19 million contract, might be a strong fit on Krejci's left side. Beleskey had a career-high 22 goals and 32 points for the Anaheim Ducks last season, and the 6-foot, 200-pound forward likes to play a power game and get his goals around the net.

"If you kind of look at it, he plays a little bit similar to Milan was doing here," Krejci said. "But it's kind of hard to say what direction the coaching and the management wants to go, so we'll see what happens. I'm open to whatever."

Beyond answering a specific question about Beleskey, Krejci didn't want to speculate on his potential linemates. One thing he didn't leave up for debate was his desire to get this season started.

"Obviously for a couple reasons. One, that I got hurt and I didn't play as many games as I would've liked," he said. "And also we didn't make the playoffs. So it was a really long offseason. Sometimes it's nice to get away for a couple weeks. But then you're kind of starting to miss it. You know you get bored, so you go on the internet, you watch TV and you just read things. Honestly, you kind of get tired of just reading about like speculations, trades and line combinations and point productions and stuff like that. You just want to get it started and make all this speculation kind of put it aside. And I want you guys to start writing about different things. I can't wait for that."

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