Kelly working to hit 'top of his game'

Kelly working to hit 'top of his game'
February 15, 2013, 7:04 am
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WILMINGTON Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Chris Kelly was scoring 20 goals in his first full season with the Boston Bruins.
It wasnt that bad a deal for Kelly, of course. He can put 20-goal scorer down on his NHL resume for the rest of his career and it added a few dollars to his asking price when he hit unrestricted free agency last summer before inking a four-year, 12 million contract with the Bruins.
But it also raised the expectations for the third line center, and hes been a slow starter this time around. Kelly doesnt have a goal after 11 games this season, and has managed only three assists along with a minus-3 rating.
Claude Julien said there are some of his players that arent where they should be right now, and its difficult to imagine that Kelly isnt one of the players his head coach is referring to.
He had a great start last year. He scored some goals and had some decent points, said Julien. Now all of a sudden the expectations get higher, and certainly he would be the first guy to tell you that hes not at the top of his game quite yet.
But at the same time hes a veteran and he knows what to do.
Its been part of a slow building process for the third line as Chris Bourque and Rich Peverley only have a single goal each through the first quarter of the season, and the offensive production has been down for the entire line.
The goals have been a little slow to come by so far this season, but our line is playing good defense and were winning games, said Kelly. It might be a different story if the team was struggling right now, but its giving players time to find their games.
Its been difficult for anybody to miss the sluggish start to the year offensively, but Julien said that his alternate captain has been steady in the other areas of his game. Solid defensive play and good face-off numbers are just as important to Kellys effectiveness as any goals scored along the way, and hes been far from a liability this season.
Kelly has been a big part of a penalty killing unit thats been outstanding for us, said Julien. Hes been great on draws and hes been great when asked to play against other teams top lines especially after power plays when I throw him out there with different wingers.
The only part thats frustrating for him and something that we know can be a lot better, its the offensive production.
For the record, Kelly is a part of a Bs penalty kill unit that leads the NHL while killing 93.5 percent of the power plays they face, and the pivot is winning 59.4 percent of his face-offs this season.
That might not be racking up goals at a 20-goal pace for the season, but its part of the package Kelly offers as a third line center providing depth, versatility and value.