WILMINGTON, Mass. – Even though the Bruins’ game in Philadelphia Wednesday night might mean more to David Krejci than many of the rest of his teammates who also suffered that historic defeat to the Flyers last spring, he knows he has to channel his energies when he hits the ice on Broad Street.
Until Marc Savard comes back, Krejci will continue to be Boston’s No. 1 center. They need him to be the type of player he was during the season’s first 11 games, when he used his guile and ice vision to be nearly a point-per-game performer and heat up wingers Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton to feverish levels.
If Krejci lets the Flyers, or the arena, get him too amped up, he won’t be much help to the Bruins in their rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal series, which ended with the Flyers becoming just the third team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit.
“I don’t want to do anything stupid that’ll cost my team a penalty or a goal or anything,” said Krejci, whose extra incentive could come from the Mike Richards hit that ended the Boston center’s season with a dislocated wrist in Game 3 of that series. “The best thing to get back at them is to get the two points and go home. That’s what I’m going to try to do and I don’t think it’s going to be a special game for me because I got hurt my last game of the year. But for my teammates too, they beat us four in a row so we all want our revenge, we all want to get back at them and hopefully we can get the two points tomorrow.”
Since Krejci’s return from the concussion he suffered Nov. 6 of this season, he has skated in four games (missing Boston’s last outing with the flu) and posted just two assists (both in the same game) while Lucic and Horton have combined for one point (a Lucic assist). Instead of a top line, they’ve formed an invisible line.
Expectedly, the Bruins compiled just a 1-2-1 record in those contests and are 1-3-1 in their last five heading into Philly.
“It [hasn’t been] the same, but there’s ups and downs,” said Krejci, who after missing a couple days with the flu has now practiced two days in a row. “And when you’re up, you don’t think that there can be anything bad. So one game back, it happens. And second and third, you know you realize that something’s not right. … So we’re going to get a chance tomorrow to play together again. We want to do better. So hopefully we’ll do better and we’ll help the team to get some goals.”
Krejci posted 2-8-10 during those magical first 11 games of the regular season. Boston was 7-3-1 and seemed able to rely on nightly production from their top line despite the injury absence of Savard. Now it feels like they have to just tread water until Savard’s upcoming return.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The Lucic-Krejci-Horton could use the sight of the Flyers as motivation to reenact the celebrations of the season’s first month. An injury absence can knock off the timing not just of a player, but his entire line – and Krejci in particular has looked out of sorts. However, he isn’t shying away from the criticism of his recent play.
“I shouldn’t make any excuses. Maybe the first two games, they weren’t the games that I like to play. But something’s happen when you don’t play. It happens. I don’t want to make any excuses, so now it’s two weeks behind me, so nothing should stop me from doing my best.”
Sometimes the line’s center, especially someone with the talents and pedigree of Krejci, gets burdened with undo blame when a line isn’t clicking. Horton continues to deal with an allergy to shooting and hasn’t been much of a physical presence. Lucic knows he has to pull his weight more as well. The bulky left winger Boston counts on to provide punch with the body and the stick admitted today he has been a shadow of himself the last five games, and that means he’s not working hard enough.
“It shouldn’t be an excuse. It’s been a heavy schedule this last month – a lot of games thrown at us. But I think as an athlete you’ve got to do whatever you can to get your rest, get your nutrition,” he said. “And for myself, that’s what I’m trying to right now – get myself that rest and get myself pumped up, jacked up to go into every game because when I do that that’s when I’m at my best.”
Krejci’s return to health from both the concussion and the flu might give his line the opportunity to again forge some consistent chemistry against the Flyers and beyond. When the top line isn’t making life difficult on the opponent’s top defense pair, the rest of the lineup pays a price as well. Lucic believes he has the prescription for his line’s ills.
“It’s nice to have a practice with him today and get that feel back,” said Lucic. “For us, looking back, the first 12 games there before he got hurt, a reason we were so successful was we were making good, strong plays and we were moving up the ice quick and we were able to get our feet going and attack with a lot of speed. So if we do that, we’re going to be successful and that’s what we’re looking forward to getting back to.”
Anything less than “good, strong plays” against the likes of the red-hot, hard-hitting Flyers will probably leave the Bruins looking like they’ve just been run over by a steamroller … or Mike Richards. The first line, top line, scoring line – whatever you want to call it – has to lead the way to keep the Bruins out of the path of that oncoming truck.