BOSTON — Welcome to the big time, Ryan Spooner.
With an upper body injury sidelining David Krejci for the foreseeable future, Spooner now will face his greatest professionalÂ challenge to date, as the Boston Bruins’ new second-line center.
âItâs going to be the first time Iâm up on the top two lines,” the 23-year-old said Tuesday as the Bruins prepared to hostÂ the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. “I think a couple of years ago, I played there for a game. But Iâm excited for it, and I just have to be, I guess, confident in myself and just believe that I can get the job done.”
Krejci has been one of the Bruins’ best and most productive players this season, tying Patrice Bergeron for the team lead with 33 points and recording at least one in 25 of his 35 games. His will be large shoes for Spooner, who is in his first season as a full-time NHL player, to fill.
âYou donât replace a guy like Krech,” Bergeron said. “You donât want to try to do that. Itâs about playing a game and really stepping up individually and as a team, and thatâs really the only way we can approach this. When youâre missing one of your best players, itâs always tough, but at the same time, you need everyone to respond, and it starts (Tuesday night).”
Spooner has skated on Boston’s third line in nearly every game this season, but his adjustment to the tougher competition top-six forwards face should be helped along by the presence of right wing Loui Eriksson, whose ability to excel in all three zones will take some pressure off Spooner on the defensive end.
“LouiâsÂ a smart player,” head coach Claude Julien said. “So in this situation, he probably hasÂ to step up and be a reliable guy. But at the same time, I really think itâs always unfair to say, ‘Well, itâs up to this guy, itâs up to this guy.’ Itâs up to the whole team. If we canât get everybody to step up, then itâs going to be tough.”
One specific area where the Bruins will need a full-team effort is at the faceoff dot. Spooner’s ranks last among Boston players who have taken at least 100 draws with a 41.7 percent success rate, a full eight points behind Krejci (49.8 percent). Krejci also wasÂ the third B’sÂ centerman to go down with a serious injury this season, following Chris Kelly, who is expected to miss the rest of the yearÂ with a broken leg, and Joonas Kemppainen, who hasn’t played since suffering an upper body injury Dec. 7.
Kemppainen has won an impressive 52.3 percent of his faceoffs in his first season as a Bruin.
“When you lose a guy like Krejci, when you lose a guy like Kelly and Kemppainen, whoâs been really solid on draws, you got thinner and thinner, and youâre probably at your thinnest right now, if you want to look at it that way,” Julien said. “I think itâs so important that our group as a whole on the ice just takes charge. Maybe you have to get grittier, maybe you have to tie up, go for loose pucks — whatever the case is depending on the centerman and how heâs been doing on that specific night.”
Spooner, who is expected to skateÂ betweenÂ Matt Beleskey and Eriksson against Ottawa, has gone without a point in his last four games but posted 10 over the previous six.
Thumbnail photo viaÂ Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images