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Olympic confidence carrying over for Bruins' Krejci

by John Manasso
ATLANTA -- Scan the Boston Bruins roster, and it doesn't seem as if it should be so bereft of offense.

The trade of Phil Kessel and his 36 goals last season to Toronto and injuries to top center Marc Savard, who played only 41 games before suffering what likely will be a season-ending concussion March 7, have made a dent to be sure.

But the Bruins' roster remains dotted with forwards who have turned in strong offensive showings in the past, and in some cases as recently as last season.

While Boston still ranks last in the League in scoring, some key players are showing refreshing signs of life as the Bruins, currently holder of the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot, attempt to land safely in the playoffs over their final 10 games.

Chief among those players awakening from their collective offensive slumbers is 23-year-old center David Krejci, who had 73 points last season but was toiling far below that rate entering the Olympic break.

Krejci had a goal and an assist in Tuesday's 4-0 win in Atlanta, giving him 11 points in his last 10 games.

Krejci, who was among the best players for the Czech team at the Olympics with 2 goals, an assist and a plus-2 rating in five games, credits the tournament for helping him get back on track.

"I feel confidence," he said of his post-Olympic performance. "... And I'm happy I had the Olympics I had and they build a little confidence in me. And I'm trying to do the same thing here."

With a goal in the Bruins' final game before the Olympics, he broke a four-game pointless streak that left him with 31 points in 57 games at the break.

In his first two games back after the break, he also failed to get on the score sheet, and he admitted to being "very tired" in that first game.

Since then, however, he has been on a tear. The Bruins, winners of their last two, are 5-4-1 in their last 10, a pace that ought to be sufficient to hold off the teams chasing them and possibly enough to catch a few faltering teams in front of them.

If Krejci stays hot, perhaps he can ignite linemate Michael Ryder, who has 16 goals after scoring 27 last season.

"They've been together for two years almost. They've been separated at times this year, but we put them back together," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "There's some chemistry there. Again, when David is on his game and Ryder shoots pucks and goes hard to the net and (Blake Wheeler, the line's third member) is a hard-working guy -- the three of them have pretty good chemistry."

Another player whom the Bruins could use to return to form is forward Milan Lucic, who missed 32 games with a high-ankle sprain. The 21-year-old Lucic, who had 17 goals last season in 72 games, has just 8 goals in 40 this season.

Like Krejci, Lucic also had a goal and an assist on Tuesday, giving him 5 goals in his last 14 games. Lucic said after Tuesday's win that he is starting to feel like his old self.

"It was funny, I was saying this to someone, that the last couple of games, when I'm thinking less, I'm doing more," he said. "When I first came back from the ankle injury (Jan. 7), I was thinking too much and trying to do more and maybe that's why I was struggling the way I was.

"Lately, I'm thinking less and working hard and retrieving pucks and things seem to be falling into place."

Julien has noticed.

"I think, again, being stronger on the puck," he said. "Protecting it. Getting it out. I think his game's coming around because, again, that line without (Vladimir Sobotka) in the middle still did a pretty good job for us."

Sobotka suffered a head injury on his first shift following a hit from 6-foot-5, 255-pound Atlanta forward Evgeny Artyukhin and did not return. He will need to be evaluated further, Julien said.

With their two straight victories against teams that are chasing them to get in the playoffs, the Bruins are hopeful they can continue their winning ways -- and the scoring.

"We got it in us," Krejci said. "We just don't show it that often. We've shown it on the road, but we've got to do it at home, as well. And find some consistency before we make the playoffs."

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