WILMINGTON, Mass. — David Krejci is inching closer to a return to the Boston Bruins lineup, but he might come back in a different position than his normal top-six center role.
Krejci practiced on the wing as part of Boston’s top line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille for the second consecutive day. He alternated with Paille at right wing during Wednesday’s practice and didn’t confirm if he’ll play Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks, but he’s encouraged with how he feels.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien was noncommittal when asked if Krejci will play on the Bergeron line whenever he returns.
“There’s potential there,” Julien said. “But I think it’s unfair to put all the pressure on two or three guys. I think the pressure should be on all of us right now. If we take it as a group, we have a much better chance of getting through this than if you just rely on two, three guys.”
Krejci has played at center nearly his entire NHL career, and there hasn’t been any reason to change that, given his excellent playmaking skills and responsible defensive game. But the Bruins are in a unique spot at the moment with the abundance of natural centers on their roster. Patrice Bergeron, Carl Soderberg, Ryan Spooner, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell and Krejci are all best suited at center, but with just four spots available, someone (or multiple guys) has to move outside.
Kelly has done this for most of the season as a left winger with Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Spooner briefly played on the wing last season, but he’s been much more effective as a center this campaign. His scoring production (12 points and 15 games), power-play skill and speed make it almost impossible to take him out of the lineup. As a perennial Selke Trophy candidate as the NHL’s best defensive forward, Bergeron also should remain at center.
Krejci on the wing — if that’s what Julien plans on doing Thursday — certainly could work well. The veteran forward is an underrated scorer — just look at his goal-scoring record in the playoffs — and could be effective as a shoot-first player with his excellent shot. Krejci is a two-time 20-goal scorer and tallied 19 goals last season despite playing in a playmaking role.
“I can play whatever,” Krejci said. “I’ve played center pretty much my whole life, but it’s not much different on the wing. I know what to do. I’m a hockey player, so it’s just another spot on the ice.”
One hurdle for Krejci playing on the wing is developing chemistry with Bergeron and Marchand. The Bruins aren’t in a position to wait for new linemates to form chemistry, and Krejci has rarely played with Bergeron and Marchand at even strength this season.
|Even Strength TOI||With Krejci||Without Krejci|
“A little bit different styles, but I think it’s been good the last few days when we’ve been able to practice together and work on things,” Marchand said. “(Krejci) is so talented, and I think he’d fit in with anybody. Hopefully we can connect and produce. The way he cycles the puck down low, we’ve felt good in practice and have been able to make plays.”
Krejci on the wing isn’t the ideal scenario, but the Bruins have to be creative if they are going to keep all of their most skilled forwards in the lineup and in positions to succeed. The B’s have scored just 1.8 goals per game during their five-game losing skid, which must improve if they are going to reach the playoffs.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images
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