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Bruins sorely need bounce-back year from Eriksson

by Matt Kalman /

Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson, who was traded from the Dallas Stars on July 4, 2013, had a lot to adjust to last season.

After seven seasons in Dallas, he had to move to a new city and learn a new system.

Then the left-shooting wing had to live up to expectations. He was the centerpiece of Boston's package that was acquired in exchange for rising star center Tyler Seguin, who wound up fourth in the NHL scoring race with 84 points.

Eriksson, two seasons removed from a 71-point season with the Stars, came up well short in his bid to make people forget about Seguin.

Eriksson had 10 goals and 27 assists in 61 games. His season was marred by two concussions that caused him to miss 20 of the 21 games he sat out for Boston. The 29-year-old has now averaged 0.6 points per game two seasons in a row after averaging 0.87 for Dallas in 2011-12.

The Bruins and Eriksson need a rebound season in 2014-15.

"He's not a rookie player. He knows. He's a professional. He's in the second half of his 20s," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "The expectations are high. For him, I understand the stuff that he went through too. That's one of the reasons he didn't perform to the level that we all wanted. But I expect him to be a very good player."

A bigger role might increase expectations for Eriksson this season. Although Chiarelli stressed no one has "anointed" Eriksson as the Bruins' new No. 1 right wing, the GM and coach Claude Julien both mentioned this summer the Swede would be the natural candidate to replace the departed Jarome Iginla because of experience and track record.

Center David Krejci, left wing Milan Lucic and Iginla combined for 189 points last season. Iginla also shared the team goals lead with center Patrice Bergeron with 30 before departing this summer for the Colorado Avalanche as an unrestricted free agent.

Because of salary-cap limitations, the Bruins have been unable to trade for or sign a player capable of replacing Iginla's production. Eriksson showed flashes of his former self at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he effectively lined up with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin for much of the tournament on Sweden's silver-medal winning team. Eriksson also found chemistry down the stretch last season with center Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly, who moved from center to left wing.

An in-form Eriksson might be a fit for Krejci and Lucic's line.

"It's definitely two great players to play with," Eriksson told the media earlier this summer. "I played two games with them last season, and it was nice. We'll see when the preseason starts here, and maybe practice together a little bit, we'll see how things are working out.

"They're two smart players and they've been playing together for a couple years, so they know each other real well. So just go in there and try to help them out a lot."

Forward Reilly Smith, who also joined the Bruins as part of the Seguin trade, made up for some of Eriksson's shortcomings by scoring 20 goals and 51 points. Smith might be another candidate to replace Iginla.

But regardless of whether he's on the first, second or third line, Eriksson needs to stay healthy and live up to his billing as an offensive threat for the Bruins to continue their recent run of regular-season success.

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