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Healthy Krejci eager to lead Bruins back to playoffs

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins center David Krejci endured an injury-riddled season after signing a six-year, $43.5 million contract extension last September. The Bruins went 16-13-6 while Krejci missed 20 games with an undisclosed injury and 15 more with a knee injury.

Krejci embarked on a workout regimen this summer to make sure his injury troubles don't come back.

"I've been working out for a long time," Krejci said before the Bruins opened their regular season Thursday, a 6-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. "I changed my workouts a little bit this year. I've been skating a little bit longer before training camp. So I came into training camp in good shape, feeling good with my body. And so far here the games and practices have been pretty good. It's a big training camp for me and for the team. So far I'm pretty happy how things are going."

Krejci and the Bruins play the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports, NESN).

Krejci missed six games in the previous five seasons. With the injuries from last season and his 30th birthday coming in April, he decided things had to change in order to make good on his contract and become an 82-game player again. He couldn't reveal the details of the workout changes without revealing the nature of the undisclosed injury, but he said he supplemented his old workouts with some new things and altered his schedule and diet.

"I was focusing on obviously being better within reason. But to be able to play 82 games, once I do that, the next year I'll do the same thing," said Krejci, who scored Boston's first goal of the season.

There were numerous reasons the Bruins dropped from third in goals in 2013-14 to a tie for 22nd last season, but none was as glaring as Krejci's absence. He had 351 points in 442 games from 2008-09 through 2013-14, centering wings Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla during 30-goal seasons during that span.

But with Krejci gone for most of last season, opponents were able to focus their defense on center Patrice Bergeron. Center Carl Soderberg, who was traded to the Colorado Avalanche, struggled in a bigger role.

Coach Claude Julien knows how important it is for the Bruins to have a healthy Krejci orchestrating the offense.

"He feels pretty good. We've been checking in on him," Julien said. "We made sure we gave him that day off that one day. But he's had no issues. He's felt good. And I think he's looking forward to a bounce-back year. He's definitely disappointed in how little he was able to play last year and he made sure that he worked on those things so that he would be fresh and obviously healthy. And he's maintained that. So that's great news.

"To me, you get a healthy David Krejci, you've got a different team."

Forward Matt Beleskey, who was signed as a free agent in part to replace Lucic, started the season as Krejci's left wing with second-year forward David Pastrnak on the right.

"I think [Beleskey] kind of fills the role pretty good on our line as well," Krejci said. "He's a really good player, he can shoot the puck really well. I know he hasn't scored yet, but that doesn't mean anything. I really like his game. I really like how he competes. And David, he's really fast and he's still young so he's still got a lot to learn."

Some players who sign contracts like Krejci's crumble under the weight of expectations. Krejci said the fact he signed last year took some of that heat off him. But the contract aside, the Bruins are counting on a major comeback from Krejci that can help them get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing last season for the first time in eight years.

The playoffs are when Krejci has been most valuable to the Bruins: He has 77 points in 93 games. He's embracing the challenge of getting the Bruins back into the postseason.

"I have heard that before," Krejci said. "Pressure. There could be pressure, but I put pressure on myself the most. So if there's pressure coming, it'd be from me. It's nice to hear these words but again, thinking about confidence, and when I hear these kind of comments, it gives me confidence to go out next game, next practice, whatever, and do my thing. When I'm involved in this type of situation, then I can help the team."

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