-- Now standing at just 2-4-0 on the season, the Boston Bruins
are trying to regain the form that made them Stanley Cup champions a mere four months ago, while also seeking the return of their No. 1 center.
They might've moved closer to achieving both things during practice Wednesday at the TD Garden.
Center David Krejci
, out since suffering a core injury Oct. 17 in practice, continued to work out with the team and even took some light contact. Krejci started skating earlier this week and termed himself 50-50 for Thursday night's home game against Toronto.
"I would love to be there," said the Bruins' co-leading scorer of a year ago in his first public comments since his injury. "It (stinks) when you're up there watching the games. It's not fun, you know, when you see the fans and the building's going crazy and the guys battling on the ice. You just want to be out there on the ice so bad. It (stinks). So if I can, I would love to play tomorrow. But I have to be smart about it. I don't want to make it worse and then be out who knows for how long. If it felt better tomorrow, then I would love to play."
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Krejci wouldn't reveal the nature of the injury or even how he suffered it. But he noted he has been improving every day. That's more than can be said for the Bruins players who have been on the ice lately. After they looked like they were finding a groove in rallying to win a shootout in Chicago Saturday, the Bruins took a step back by accumulating 72 penalty minutes (47 in the third period) during a 4-1 home loss to Carolina.
But from his perch in the press box, Krejci saw some progress in his teammates' play.
"It's kind of hard to judge because I don't know exactly what's going on through the guys' heads when they're out there. I think they're battling. They're definitely trying," he said. "Some things just aren't going our way. [Tuesday] night, I think the third period, when they got the goal for 2-1, they got the momentum, they were playing physical just like we did against Vancouver in the Final. But I think it got a little out of hand. I think if that hadn't happened, I really liked the way they came out in the third period."
Among those who got out of hand during the final period was Nathan Horton
, whose double-minor for roughing and 10-minute misconduct short-circuited Boston's attempt to pull even with the Hurricanes. Horton didn't comment on the matter after the game, but after Wednesday's practice he accepted blame for going after Tim Gleason
, whom Horton said he thought wanted to fight.
The ill-advised penalties by Horton were symbolic of the frustrations the Bruins are feeling right now as they struggle to score goals. They've scored more than two goals in a game just once through six games.
"I think the way everything [is going]," said Horton, who has scored just 1 goal, about the source of his frustration. "The way I'm playing, we're not scoring, me personally or the team. We're not playing how we want to play and it's just a little bit of frustration there."
A Krejci return would provide a major boost for the Bruins. Coach Claude Julien
is hoping some new-look lines will do the same. The Bruins altered their top three lines in practice, with Patrice Bergeron
centering Horton and Brad Marchand
, Chris Kelly
centering Milan Lucic
and Tyler Seguin
, and Rich Peverley
centering Benoit Pouliot
and Jordan Caron
with Krejci rotating in at center for that group.
Julien admitted he doesn't know what he'll get out of his new lines, but "what I know is that what I was getting before wasn't enough." All the coaching tactics and lineup changes in the world, however, might not make a difference if the Bruins don't toughen up mentally and show off the character that has helped them overcome adversity in the past.
"We don't expect anyone to feel sorry for us, because who would?" said Julien. "We just came off a Stanley Cup championship. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us. So it's just a matter of taking it upon yourselves as a team to battle your way out of it. Let's not feel sorry for ourselves. Let's just show our character, which we've shown many times before, and battle our way out of it. I know this team will do that."