BOSTON — Injuries to key forwards this season have tested the Bruins’ depth and left coach Claude Julien with quite a challenge: Finding lines that can provide consistent offensive production.
Milan Lucic, in particular, has struggled to score goals, with just four in 23 games. One factor is the absence of first-line center David Krejci, who has been Lucic’s linemate for the last four-plus seasons but has missed nine of Boston’s last 11 games with an undisclosed injury.
Lucic’s production without Krejci in the Bruins’ lineup is much different compared to when they’re on the ice together.
|Milan Lucic at even strength||With Krejci||Without Krejci|
Luckily for the Bruins, Julien seems to have found a line that will allow Lucic to create offense. Swedish forwards Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, who have formed remarkable chemistry in their short time together in Boston, played with Lucic in the last two games, with great results.
They started to hit their stride in Monday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Bruins trailing 1-0 in the second period, Soderberg and Eriksson set up Lucic for his first goal in eight games (and his first of the season without Krejci) with a pair of beautiful passes.
“I was looking for a shot first, but then I saw he was coming with me,” Eriksson said when asked about his assist. “It was nice to see him in front there and a nice goal.”
The line scored another goal in the third period, but it was disallowed because the referee determined Soderberg batted the puck into the net with his glove. It was a questionable call, but the net drive from the line throughout the game was a good sign.
“We played a pretty good game,” Lucic said of his line. “We didn’t spend too much time in our own zone, and we were able to create a bunch of scoring chances. I think what got better is we were attacking with a lot more speed off the rush and we were strong on the pucks and driving to the front of the net and trying to create chances that way. For myself just on that goal, just driving the net, stopping in front, and a great play by Carl and Loui to get me the puck there for that first goal.”
Lucic probably will re-unite with Krejci when the veteran center returns to the lineup full time. In the meantime, it’s encouraging for the Bruins that they have found a good fit for Lucic with Soderberg and Eriksson.
“(Krejci) isn’t here, so certainly you look to get some production, some good games out of (Lucic),” Julien said. “I think that line’s been able to get that out of him from playing with those two. So, absolutely. But when Krejci comes back and (Chris) Kelly comes back, Kelly’s been good with that line, too.
“So we’re gonna need more than just a couple of high-end productive lines here. So there’s probably a good chance, I’m gonna tell you right now, you’ll probably see him back with (Krejci).”
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images