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David Krejci always believed his game would return

Bruins forward back on track following second hip surgery

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward David Krejci believed his game would come back. He had been through this before following surgery on his right hip in 2009. That made him familiar with the recovery time and the pitfalls and the patience needed to get his game back to where he wanted it to be when he had a second hip surgery, this time on the left side, in June.

It was not until January that he felt right. 

"It was tough coming back from the hip surgery," Krejci said. "But now I feel really good. I feel like I got my speed back, so just keep going."

Since Jan. 22, Krejci has scored eight goals in 18 games, nearly half of the 18 goals he has this season in 67 games. He has looked better and smarter and faster on the ice. He has looked more like himself and less like the player hampered by injuries over the past two seasons, when he combined for 24 goals in 119 games.

Video: DET@BOS: Krejci beats the defense for slick goal

That was never more apparent than on Wednesday, when Krejci made multiple bids for a hat trick against the Detroit Red Wings, ultimately settling for two goals -- matched by teammate Brad Marchand -- in a 6-1 win at TD Garden.

"It was nice to see him score too because he's generally pass-first," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "He'll probably tell you he could have had four tonight. It was good for him. I think he needed it."

It had been a slow start for the Bruins in a game that was set up for the home team, with Detroit coming in on the second half of a back-to-back. But that wasn't what it looked like until Krejci skated around Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser and scored at 11:07 of the first period. He added another with 14.9 seconds remaining for a 4-0 lead at the first intermission. 

And the chances didn't stop in the second. That was when it seemed sure he would get at least one more. 

"In the second period I was close a couple times," Krejci said. "Obviously it would be nice to get it. But at the same time it was a very important game for us, especially after the game in Ottawa [on Monday]."

Part of Krejci's resurgence has been his partnership with David Pastrnak, which has blossomed. Drew Stafford slotted in on the other wing on Wednesday and scored a goal, his first with his new team after being acquired in a March 1 trade with the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. Pastrnak also scored. 

"Having Pastrnak on his wing, he's probably enjoyed that," Cassidy said. "Who wouldn't? Kid's a dynamic player. He comes with energy every night. He's great on the forecheck. David needs that on his wing, someone who will get in there if we're going to dump it in behind their 'D'. We need to recover some of those pucks.

Video: DET@BOS: Krejci wires home second goal of the period

"I think [Krejci's] strength is a transition game most of the time. When he knows who he's making plays [to] through the neutral zone or small-ice plays -- so when we have to go on the forecheck, I think [Pastrnak has] really helped him get some pucks back."

Still, it was that first goal, around DeKeyser, that indicated a change in Krejci's fortunes. It looked different. He looked healthy. There was an ease and a confidence in his game that hasn't always been there, as Krejci has fought through a slate of injuries -- knee, shoulder, hip -- that began in the 2014 preseason. He hasn't had a lengthy stretch of perfect health since. 

That culminated in the surgery on his left hip after the Bruins failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the final day of the 2015-16 regular season. He had been playing through the hip issue for the last quarter of the season. 

"I don't even think I would try it," Krejci said of attempting the move on DeKeyser in October. "But I feel good in general. I feel like I've got another gear. So, keep working hard."

He was patient to get to this point. He believed.

"I knew it was going to come," he said. "I was there before. The same thing happened last time. I started feeling good. It was an Olympic year and, at the Olympics, I started feeling really good, came back and it went well. So I knew it might take a little bit longer than October or November. But I'm glad it's here now and I can just focus on the game."

Krejci is the highest-paid player on the Bruins, with a $7.25 million salary-cap charge. That's higher than Zdeno Chara, higher than Patrice Bergeron, higher than Tuukka Rask, higher than Marchand. The Bruins are indisputably better when Krejci plays well. 

As former coach Claude Julien used to say, the Bruins go as Krejci goes. 

Right now he is starting to go well, and so are the Bruins.

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