Krejci looking for consistency in linemates

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22

BOSTON -- Don’t be alarmed if you’re Christmas shopping at a local mall in the next few days and see a 28-year-old man waiting in line to visit with Santa Claus.

If there’s one thing on David Krejci’s wish list this holiday season, it’s a point-producing right winger. The days of having a consistent linemate on the right side, similar to the likes of Nathan Horton or Jarome Iginla, is a thing of the past, and Bruins coach Claude Julien is trying everything to find a winger that gels with Krejci and Milan Lucic.

It hasn’t been easy for Julien or Krejci this season because of the limited games the top-line center has played due to an ongoing, lower-body injury. After missing 11 consecutive games (20 overall) Krejci has played three straight, and too many times for his liking when he looks to his right there’s a different teammate on his wing.

On Sunday, Julien decided it once again was time to try Loui Eriksson on the top line, but it didn’t take long for the coach to abandon that idea.

[+] EnlargeDavid Krejci
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesBetween injuries and a revolving cast of right wings, David Krejci hasn't been able to get going.
With the obvious lack of chemistry, and in desperate need of scoring, Julien felt it was best to reunite Eriksson with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly -- and that worked. With Boston trailing by a goal, Kelly quickly scored to tie the game at 2-2 when he redirected a Zdeno Chara shot past Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth at 15:36 of the second period.

“Playing with Kells and Carl, we’ve been playing good together,” Eriksson said. “Our first shift we scored a goal right away, so it was kind of nice.”

Julien kept that line intact for the remainder of regulation, but ironically, it was Eriksson’s goal in overtime that gave the Bruins a 4-3 victory, as Lucic registered the assist and Krejci also was on the ice for the winning tally.

We’ve learned in the past that Krejci is at his best when he’s comfortable with his linemates. It’s no coincidence that Lucic has been on Krejci’s left side for so long, but the inconsistency on the right side this season hasn’t helped Boston’s top line.

“It’s hard because David’s just starting to find his stride,” Julien said. “Loui was a really good player tonight, that’s all I’m going to say. Wherever he was he was good, so it’s something we’re trying. We’re trying to find some solutions to our lines.”

Whether Julien finds a good fit in house or the organization finally trades for a right-handed shooting right winger, Krejci is perplexed why stability has been lacking on his line.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that you’ve got to come to the rink every day and work hard. I just wake up, stay positive and basically you never know who you’re going to play with. But it is what it is.”

After Eriksson was moved back to Soderberg’s line on Sunday, rookie Craig Cunningham moved up to play with Krejci. At different times this season, rookie Seth Griffith has been given an opportunity. If the Bruins don’t trade for a natural right winger, Julien should give Matt Fraser a longer look on Krejci’s line. Given the opportunity, Fraser could be a good fit and fill that role as a power forward.

Julien has been fortunate in recent years to have so much consistency with his line combinations. The coach has been rattled this season with too many injuries and question marks, which is causing too many lineup changes. Overall, Soderberg’s line with Kelly and Eriksson has worked well, and it did again on Sunday.

“When you look at it right now, there’s no reason to take them apart,” Lucic said. “They’ve been our best line, especially the last three games.”

Eriksson has three goals and two assists for five points in the last five games, including a pair of overtime winners. With his goal against the Sabres, Kelly has four points in the past four games. Soderberg recorded an assist Sunday and now has five points in the past five games.

“It’s good at least one line is clicking and it’s up to the rest of us to find our game,” Lucic said. “The importance of being a good team is having every line going and going after teams in waves and line after line. It’s up to the rest of us to step up our game and play like the Soderberg line has been playing.”

[+] EnlargeLoui Eriksson
AP Photo/Michael DwyerAfter an aborted stay on the top line, Loui Eriksson reunited with Chris Kelly and scored the OT winner.
Once the Bruins lost Iginla to free agency last July -- the future Hall of Famer signed a three-year deal worth $16 million with the Colorado Avalanche -- Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli and even Krejci talked about how Eriksson would fill the void on the top line. It hasn’t worked as everyone thought it would, and it’s obvious Eriksson is comfortable with Soderberg and vice versa.

“They are good players and they’re going to find it,” Eriksson said of Krejci and Lucic. “They just need to keep going and they will find it. I don’t know who is going to play on that line, but they’ve been playing together for a couple of years and they know how to play with each other, so hopefully someone can come in there and help them out and our team can be better in that way.”

Lucic said he sees improvement with him and Krejci. Both explained it’s only a matter of bearing down and executing better when making plays in the offense zone, and both stressed the need to create better quality scoring chances.

“This is only [Krejci’s] 14th game of the season and it’s going to take some time,” Lucic said. “For the most part, we did a much better job playing with the puck in the O-zone other than a couple of turnovers that ended up costing us. We want to feel good about getting a win, and getting more O-zone time is just a matter of creating more and bearing down when we get opportunities.”

When Krejci and Lucic are playing with that consistency and produce, the Bruins have success. When they’re struggling, the team does too. Before Dougie Hamilton’s tying goal at 18:29 of the third period, and Eriksson’s heroics in overtime, the Bruins came agonizingly close to losing at home against the lowly and undermanned Sabres.

The standings are not pretty for the Bruins, who currently sit in third place in the wild card. A loss against the Sabres would have depleted Boston’s morale even more.

“It’s huge if you don’t get the two points and how much further you fall back behind, but getting the two points gets you right back into it,” Lucic said.

The Bruins host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night at TD Garden before the NHL shuts down for its annual three-day Christmas break.

“We've got one more game before Christmas break, so hopefully we can get another two points and have a nice holiday,” Krejci said.

Maybe Chiarelli will gift wrap a right wing for Krejci after the holiday season is over.

Matt Bartkowski ejected for late hit

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21

BOSTON -- Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski was given a game misconduct for his late hit on Buffalo Sabres captain Brian Gionta at 14:08 of the first period Sunday night at TD Garden.

Buffalo was attempting to break out of its zone when Gionta failed to receive a pass just inside the blue line. The puck was past Gionta when Bartkowski stepped up and made shoulder contact to Gionta's head, flipping the Sabres forward to the ice.

Teammate Marcus Foligno quickly jumped in and dropped the gloves with Bartkowski, while Gionta lay on the ice, bleeding from his head. A trainer tended to Gionta before he skated off the ice on his own. Gionta did not return.

After the game, Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Gionta was still a little shaken up.

"We don't know if he's going to be in [Monday] or not," Nolan said, "so we'll cross our fingers, hoping he's good."

Bartkowski also was given a five-minute major penalty for interference and five minutes for fighting.

"The head hits are dangerous hits, so we'll let the league look at that and make the correct call," Nolan said.

Bruins coach Claude Julien was more concerned with yet another would-be goal for his team being disallowed than talking about Bartkowski's hit on Gionta. The Bruins had a goal waved off in the first period, something that has become a regular occurrence.

"I can't even figure out why goals don't count, so I'm certainly not going to comment on that. I have no idea," Julien said.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Bruins 4, Sabres 3

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins continue to struggle with recording regulation wins, as four of the last five games have gone to either overtime or a shootout.

On Sunday, Loui Eriksson's overtime goal at 2:14 gave the Bruins a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins are 2-1-2 in their last five as they're desperately trying to earn much-needed points to secure their place in the playoff race.

The Bruins received a pair of goals from Dougie Hamilton, while Chris Kelly contributed one goal. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask finished with 25 saves.

After the Bruins' morning skate, coach Claude Julien criticized defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for his inconsistent play this season, but Seidenberg drew a penalty in the first period that led to Boston's first goal of the game.

The Sabres' Tyler Ennis was called for tripping Seidenberg behind the Boston net, and the Bruins had their first power play of the game at 5:15. The Bruins appeared to capitalize quickly, but Reilly Smith had a goal disallowed due to contact with the goalie. Julien was not pleased with the call, but the Bruins responded on the ensuing faceoff when Hamilton scored to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 5:52.

Buffalo tied the game early in the second period when Andrej Meszaros finished off a partial 3-on-1 at 6:06. The Sabres then gained a 2-1 lead when they capitalized on a power play at 14:36 of the second period. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug fanned at his attempt to clear the puck as it ricocheted off his skate and past Rask.

To start the game, Julien had Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Loui Eriksson as the top line, but with the Bruins trailing midway through the second period, Julien tweaked his combinations and reunited Eriksson with Carl Soderberg and Kelly. It worked as Kelly registered the tying goal at 15:36.

Buffalo regained the lead early in the third period when Tim Schaller beat Rask on a wrap-around at 1:27. The tally was the career goal for Schaller, who was playing his third NHL game. He was recalled from Rochester of the AHL earlier in the day.

With time running out, Julien pulled Rask for the extra attacker and Hamilton's shot from the right faceoff circle beat Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth to the top right corner with 1:31 remaining in regulation to tie the game at 3-3.

Eriksson's heroics in overtime gave the Bruins the win.

W2W4: Bruins host Sabres, 7 ET

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
The Boston Bruins (16-14-3, 35 points) host the Buffalo Sabres (13-18-2, 28 points) Sunday night at TD Garden. Here’s what to watch for:

There’s no place like home: After posting a 1-1-1 record on their last three-game road trip, the Bruins return home and will play five of their next six games at TD Garden. Boston is 9-6-2 on home ice. The Bruins desperately need to produce a winning record in this upcoming homestand in order to create some momentum in hopes of climbing in the Atlantic Division standings.

What have you done lately: The Bruins are treading along and have earned points in three of their last four games, posting a 1-1-2 record in that span. Boston is 2-5-1 in its last eight games and 3-6-2 in the last 11. The Sabres are in the midst of back-to-back games. The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Sabres 5-1 Saturday night at Buffalo. The Sabres are 4-2-0 in their last six games.

We meet again: This is the third of four meetings between the Bruins and Sabres this season. The Bruins are 4-0-1 in their last five games against the Sabres, including 4-0 and a 3-2 overtime victories in the first two meetings this season. Boston is 6-5-1 against Atlantic Division opponents this season.

Masked Men: Despite a 1-2-2 record in his last five games, it appears Tuukka Rask will start against the Sabres. He has a career 6-5-1 record in 14 career games against Buffalo. Bruins backup Niklas Svedberg has had success against the Sabres this season, posting a 2-0-0 record with a 0.99 GAA and a .957 SP in both games against Buffalo. Overall, he’s 4-4-0 this season with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in 10 games. Svedberg was outstanding in his last start, posting a 3-2 shootout win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. The Sabres’ Jhonas Enroth suffered the loss against the Avalanche on Saturday night. If he plays back-to-back games, he’ll enter Sunday’s game with a 9-3-0 record, a .928 SP and a 2.37 GAA in his last 12 games. In 10 career games against the Bruins, he’s 1-5-3 with a 3.78 GAA and a .895 SP.

Bruins send Joe Morrow back to Providence

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
Boston Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow has been assigned to Providence of the AHL, the team announced Saturday.

Morrow, 22, played in 15 games for the Bruins this season. He's been a healthy scratch in seven of the last eight games. He made his NHL debut on Oct. 30 against the Buffalo Sabres.

Prior to his recall, Morrow played in five games for the P-Bruins and had one goal and one assist.

Takeaways from B's loss in Winnipeg

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
Despite playing 40 minutes of much stronger hockey following a disastrous first period, the Boston Bruins fell to the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Friday night at MTS Centre.

Winnipeg received goals from Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug registered Boston's lone tally. The loss added to what has been a woeful December for the Bruins, dropping them to 2-5-2 this month.

Winnipeg wasted little time getting things started in the first period. On the tail end of a power play that came courtesy of a Krug delay-of-game penalty 24 seconds into regulation, the Jets were able to keep pressure on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, culminating in a Grant Clitsome one-timer that trickled through Rask's legs. Positioned behind Rask, Kane was able to tip the puck past David Krejci in front of the net for the game's first goal.

Outshot 16-4 by Winnipeg in the first period, the Bruins responded with an aggressive start to the second period. Coming up ice in transition, Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly broke away for a two-on-one, with Kelly firing a shot on net that got away from Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson. Krug was able to corral the rebound, firing in the equalizer at 4:49.

With less than a minute left in the period, the Jets returned the favor by again putting consistent pressure on the Bruins' defense. In the process of making a save, Rask lost control of his stick, dropping it to the ice at the front of the crease. Just after retrieving the stick, Byfuglien fired a shot through traffic that beat Rask high for the eventual winning goal.

The Bruins went 0-for-3 on the power play Friday night and have failed on their last 11 chances with the man advantage.

After the first period, the Bruins outshot the Jets 27-11, including a 16-4 edge in the third period. Rask finished with 25 saves on 27 shots faced. Hutchinson had 30 saves on 31 shots.

A former Bruin, Hutchinson has twice posted strong efforts against Boston this season, the other coming in a 36-save, 2-1 overtime loss on Nov. 28.

Krejci progressing: Playing in back-to-back games for the first time since late October, Krejci continued to get his feet back under him Friday night. The top-line center spent 18:33 on ice, firing three shots on net. Krejci has missed 20 games this season while battling a lower-body injury.

Krug heating up: Krug's second-period goal gives him a point in five of his last seven games. The third-year defenseman has six goals and six assists this season in 29 games played.

  • Trending up: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings -- I mean, how can we overlook his most recent performance? Kopitar put up a whopping five points in the Kings’ 6-4 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, marking a career-high for the Slovenian center. With six points in the last two games, Kopitar’s production is on the uptick after what has otherwise been a rather slow start to the season.
  • Trending down: James Neal, Nashville Predators -- Yup, I’m calling him out for being the first player to be publicly shamed for his repeated diving. The NHL revealed this week that Neal has been fined $2,000 for his embellishment, after receiving a first citation and a warning. Neal can’t be pleased with that, but we like the idea of using this technique to rid the game of this stuff.
  • Surprise of the week: Rick Nash, New York Rangers -- His skill and scoring ability are hardly a surprise, but this sort of steadiness from Nash has been a pleasant surprise for the New York Rangers. Though traditionally he has been a very streaky player, Nash has been almost mind-numbingly consistent in the midst of putting together one heck of a season for the Blueshirts. The star winger, who has 20 goals and 33 points, is riding an 11-game point streak, with 14 points during that span. He hasn’t been held off the score sheet in over a month, and he’s registered points in all but four games this season. Impressive.

  • Trending up: Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes -- You have to figure that Justin Faulk is one of the cornerstone pieces the Hurricanes want to build around for the future, despite a dreadful start to the 2014-15 season. And though the 22-year-old blueliner has seen his share of struggles this year, he recorded a goal and an assist in the Canes’ 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night to help halt a six-game skid for Carolina.
  • Trending down: T.J. Brodie, Calgary Flames -- When the Flames were riding high, their blue line was chipping in on the offensive end and giving them balanced production. That type of contribution has slipped of late, coinciding with the team’s nosedive. Brodie, who has six goals and 23 points on the season, has gone eight straight games without a goal and has registered just two assists during that span. The Flames need more from him in order to make up some ground surrendered during their recent slump.
  • Surprise of the week: Mike Green, Washington Capitals -- It’s been hard to know what to make of Green (not to mention his trade value) after injuries have hampered him in recent years, but Thursday night he provided some reminders of his offensive abilities, figuring in two important goals en route to the Capitals' 5-4 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

  • Trending up: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Fleury not only evaded the mumps virus that has been wreaking havoc in the Penguins’ dressing room but also recorded his league-leading sixth shutout of the season Thursday night in a game that not many people expected him to start. After testing negative for the mumps, Fleury made 29 saves to blank the Colorado Avalanche, despite a good performance from Avs rookie Calvin Pickard, who made 47 saves yet was saddled with the loss.
  • Trending down: Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings -- Let us first offer a disclaimer: Howard has been terrific this season in regulation and in overtime. It's his shootout struggles that earn him this dubious honor. The Red Wings are an abysmal 1-6 in the shootout this season. Granted, their shooters need to pull their weight, as well, but we’d like to see Howard pull one out in the skills competition sometime soon.
  • Surprise of the week: Niklas Svedberg, Boston Bruins -- The Bruins’ 25-year-old backup goalie was sensational in helping them edge the Minnesota Wild in a 3-2 overtime win Wednesday night. Svedberg made 35 of 37 saves to post a dazzling .946 save percentage, and he has a .925 save percentage overall on the season. Last season, Chad Johnson proved to be an incredibly effective backup to starter Tuukka Rask. Svedberg has shown he can fill that role nicely, as well.

Takeaways from B's win in Minnesota

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
The Boston Bruins can thank goaltender Niklas Svedberg for their 3-2 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center.

While the Bruins' Loui Eriksson provided the game-winning goal in OT, Svedberg finished with 35 saves to help Boston snap a three-game losing streak. Starting his first game since Dec. 2 (a span of five games), Svedberg was outstanding and made many timely saves, as No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask was given the night off since the Bruins had back-to-back games.

With the Bruins holding a 2-1 lead after the first period, Minnesota generated 20 shots in the second period and Svedberg turned away every one of them. The Wild's game-tying goal came on a fluke bounce that gave Svedberg no chance. Fortunately for Svedberg, his teammates picked him up and finished with a win.

The Bruins are now 2-4-2 in their last eight games and head to Winnipeg to face the Jets on Friday night.

Welcome back: After missing the past 11 games with a lower-body injury, Bruins forward David Krejci returned to the lineup and was reunited with linemates Milan Lucic and Seth Griffith. Krejci logged 18:22 of ice time and played well for someone who's missed a total of 20 games this season. In fact, it was the first time since Oct. 23 that both Krejci and defenseman Zdeno Chara have been in the lineup at the same time. Krejci made a couple of costly turnovers, but overall he was decent.

Hi Carl: Playing through a 15-game goal drought, Bruins forward Carl Soderberg finally scored, giving Boston a 1-0 lead at 5:06 of the first period. A scrum ensued in front of the Minnesota net when Soderberg pumped in the loose puck. He had another quality scoring chance in the waning minutes of the first period, but his shot rang off the crossbar. Soderberg assisted on Eriksson's game-winning tally in OT.

Huge kill: With the Bruins holding a 2-1 lead in the second period, Boston had two men in the box as Minnesota had a golden opportunity to tie the game. The Wild's two-man advantage lasted for 1:13 but the Bruins killed it off and stifled Minnesota's momentum.

Krejci not ruled out for Wednesday night

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
Boston Bruins forward David Krejci has not been ruled out for Wednesday night’s game against the Wild in Minnesota after participating in the morning skate.

Krejci, who has missed 11 straight games and 20 overall this season with a lower body injury, will be evaluated before the game and a call will be made on whether he will return.

"I felt pretty good this morning," Krejci told the Boston Herald. "I just got off the ice. I've got to talk to a couple of people and I guess make the decision a little later today."

Kreji also skated before Tuesday’s game in Nashville but was ultimately kept out.

The Bruins are 3-5-3 in their past 11 games, all of which Krejci has missed.

Takeaways from B's loss in Nashville

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16

A valiant effort by the Boston Bruins nearly went for naught, but they earned a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night at Bridgeport Arena.

The Bruins entered their current three-game road trip after losing seven of their last nine games and playing against one of the best teams in the NHL. The Bruins received goals from Milan Lucic and Reilly Smith, while goaltender Tuukka Rask was solid with a 38-save performance. But it wasn't enough as the Predators' Derek Roy scored the lone goal in the shootout en route to victory.

The Bruins continue their road trip and will face the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.

Countrymen: The story of this game was the goaltending at both ends of the ice. While Rask was solid, Nashville's Pekka Rinne was outstanding, making 33 saves. It was a battle of fellow Finnish natives, and Rinne was a little bit better. Rask had no chance on the two regulation goals he allowed. The first was a power-play goal he never saw, and the second was an uncontested, pointblank blast. His 38 saves tied a season-high. Rinne proved why he's the early-season favorite for the Vezina with his outstanding performance.

Power play: For the first time in six games, the Bruins actually had more than two power plays in a game. Boston went 0-for-3 but it showed signs of improving on the man-advantage. Lucic's goal was an even-strength tally, but it came at the tail end of a strong power play by Boston. However, the Bruins did not register a shot on their third power play of the game. Nashville went 1-for-4 on the PP. With Boston holding a 1-0 lead, the Predators capitalized on the man-advantage and tied the game at 1-1 on Mike Fisher's goal at 19:30 of the second period. It was Nashville's first power-play goal on home ice since its home opener, snapping an 0-for-43 skid.

Hello, Carl?: The Bruins have struggled scoring goals this season and everyone needs to be held accountable, but forward Carl Soderberg is in the midst of a 15-game goal-scoring drought. He does have six assists in that span, but he needs to start scoring more.

Heating up: With his goal against the Predators, Smith now has four goals and two assists for six points in the last five games.