Bruins top line sleeps through another game

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Bruins top line sleeps through another game

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton were a top forward line that helped push the Bruins all the way to Stanley Cup glory last season.

But they might not make it through four games together this year if their ugly start to the season doesnt reverse itself quickly.

The Bruins suffered a highly uneventful 1-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Monday afternoon in a Columbus Day matinee special at TD Garden, and for the third straight game Bostons incumbent No. 1 line played like it really don't want to skate together anymore. The line was also out on the ice for Milan Hejduks game-winning goal in the third period after failing to spark the offense against a young, unproven Avalanche bunch.

Lucic has only six hits in three games and hasnt been the tower of fire-breathing intimidation he can be when playing with some genuine anger. Krejci has been average at best to start the season after leading the team in playoff goals last year. And Horton has been the most absent of the bunch in the early going.

Lucic said its a matter of supporting each other better on the ice, but its also about each player performing the little tasks that made them so successful last season. Things like moving in front of the net when defensemen are looking to take point shots, or simply helping a teammate scrape a puck out of the corner.

In three games, the trio of high-end offensive players has two points, a minus-six rating and 13 shots on net the kind of numbers that scream out trouble on a stat sheet and staleness to a coaching staff.

We have to support each other better and we just have to come up the ice together, said Lucic. Its the reason why we were successful last year, like . . . we supported each other throughout the ice and we made plays.

Lucic had a golden chance in the second period when he bombed through the slot and received a centering pass from Horton, but Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov knocked the puck away with his left shoulder. The Bs left winger actually had a couple of legit scoring chances on the Avs goalie, but the hockey gods arent likely to smile on players who arent leaving everything out on the ice.

Through three games Horton has exactly one shot on net and zero hits, which means hes been a physical and offensive no-show since the Bruins dropped the puck Thursday night against the Flyers. It was understandable if Horton got off to a sluggish start given his summer away from normal workouts and a slow progression during training camp, but hes been an invisible man in three straight games after becoming Bostons Game 7 hero last year.

Perhaps the concussion is making Horton tentative when it comes to throwing his weight around, but that didnt seem to be the case when he was scrapping with Habs players in front of the net during the preseason.

Given the trios performance or lack thereof and the teams offensive deficiencies in two of the first three games, it appears Claude Julien is weary of watching the sleepwalking hockey thats taking place with some of his top forwards.

If Horton, Lucic and Krejci dont right the ship in Carolina on Wednesday night then theres sure to be some changes coming to a Bs team thats barely out of the starting gate. Given that Lucic and Horton, in particular, have always spoken about how much they enjoy playing each other, perhaps the threat of line liquidation is exactly the kick in the pants that they need.

I think when your top line is supposed to be your top line, it should try and be that every night," Julien said. "So far I dont think theyre in sync and I dont think theyre working hard enough as a group. But its part of our job here to get those guys going. Whether its through breaking them up or whether its through meetings, weve got to find a way to get those guys going.

Right now I dont think those three -- any one of those three -- has found his game yet that we know they can play. Theyre certainly a little under-par right now.

Perhaps the golfing analogy is perfect for the Bs top line because if they dont start producing soon then Claude Julien is going to start scrambling up forwards to get things humming again.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik

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Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Austin Czarnik.

View the gallery here

Krejci, Krug aim to be ready for Bruins opening night

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Krejci, Krug aim to be ready for Bruins opening night

BRIGHTON – Only two Bruins players spoke to the media following the team’s first informal captain’s practice at the new Warrior Ice Arena facility, and it happened to be the two key players coming back from offseason surgery.

Torey Krug had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder shortly after last season was over, and David Krejci had hip surgery to take care of a lower body issue that had bothered him for each of the last two seasons. Both were on the ice on Monday morning along with John-Michael Liles, Adam McQuaid, Frank Vatrano and Noel Acciari, though Krejci hopped off the ice 15 minutes into the session once the skating drills started to ramp up.

Similarly, Krug wasn’t taking any one-timers or winding up for slap shots while working with the puck during drills amidst a six month recovery window that’s expected to carry over into October. Both said that playing on opening night was their goal at this point still weeks ahead of NHL training camp, but a decision should be forthcoming for Krejci when it comes to the World Cup of Hockey. It didn’t sound like the playmaking pivot was going to end up competing for Team Czech Republic in the tournament, but Krejci isn't shutting the door just yet.

“It’s another day closer. I did a little bit more stuff today and I’m obviously already on the ice, so I’m kind of getting there. This injury takes time, but I like where I’m at right now,” said Krejci, who originally hurt the left hip in the final preseason game prior to the 2014-15 seasons. “Every day is a step closer. I’m excited for tomorrow. If you asked me a long time ago [about the World Cup] then I would have said ‘yes’, but right now I just want to get to 100 percent.

“If I’m ready then that would be awesome, but if not then I have to do what I have to do to be 100 percent. I’m in contact with the national team coach, and we talk pretty every week. They’re asking about my updates, so they know what’s going on. I’m sure they have some backup plan if it’s not going to work out. We’ll see what happens.”

It’s not quite as cut-and-dry with Krug, who will start slowly going into training camp while ramping up to being ready as quickly as possible. Similar to Krejci, the shoulder injury was something Krug played with pretty much all of last season while scoring a career-low four goals in 81 games. The 25-year-old D-man wasn’t using the bum right shoulder as an excuse, but said he’s looking forward to feeling good as new again as soon as possible.

“When you miss the playoffs it’s a long summer, but I was very fortunate going through the shoulder surgery that I had a lot of time to recover,” said Krug, who averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season. “Hopefully I’ll be good to go for the first game. I didn’t know what to expect, but from a medical standpoint they tell me that [I’m ahead of schedule]. I’d never been through a surgery or anything like this, but I feel good.

“It’s probably a harder road, but I’m in good hands and they tell me I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m not even using my shoulder shooting the puck. I’m taking it slow and day-by-day with plenty of time still leading up to camp. It’s probably going to be a play it by ear situation [to start camp]. They said six month, so camp would be about five months. So I doubt I’ll be taking part in the physical aspect of it [to start camp]. We’ll see how it goes.”

The bad news is that Krejci and Krug had to go through surgery at all last spring, but it sounds like both aren’t going to miss much, if any, time at all for the B’s once the regular season winds up. 

Krejci more disappointed in losing Eriksson than missing out on Vesey

Krejci more disappointed in losing Eriksson than missing out on Vesey

BRIGHTON – The Bruins held their first informal skate at the new Warrior Ice Arena on Monday morning and there were a number of players present that also took part in the Jimmy Vesey recruiting session a few weeks ago.

Both Torey Krug and David Krejci skated on Monday along with John-Michael Liles, Frank Vatrano, Adam McQuaid and Noel Acciari, and those two aforementioned Black and Gold veterans were also part of the recruiting group that met with the former Harvard captain at their new practice facility.

A few days later, Vesey spurned the Bruins to sign with the New York Rangers, and the reactions weren’t all that overheated from the B’s players. Krug played with Vesey on Team USA during the World Championships a little more than a year ago, and didn’t really begrudge the highly sought Hobey Baker Award winner choosing the Blueshirts.

“I’m not going to go into details. He had the right to do what he did, and obviously it was a smart decision to interview with all those teams and figure out the best fit for him,” said Krug. “We wanted to him here, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Now we move on, and there’s an opportunity for other guys to step in and take that spot. This group moving forward, we’re highly motivated this year.”

Krejci would have been Vesey’s center, as pitched by the Bruins management in the meeting with Vesey, but that wasn’t enough to woo him to play pro hockey in his hometown. Krejci said he was more disappointed losing linemate Loui Eriksson than falling short in the Vesey sweepstakes. The carousel of changing wingers will be moving once again for the B’s pivot.

“I wasn’t really disappointed with that guy. Obviously I’d heard he was a good player, but he has to prove himself on the NHL level. I was more disappointed that we weren’t able to keep Loui. I felt like we had some good chemistry going,” said Krejci, referencing 30-goal scorer Eriksson departing for the Vancouver Canucks and a six-year, $36 million contract. “It was tough to see him go, but I’m getting kind of used to seeing my guys, my favorite guys, going away [like] Milan [Lucic], Nathan [Horton] and [Jarome] Iginla.

“So I’m going to have to play my game, and find chemistry with whoever is going to play on my line. I did meet him, and talked to him a bit. In the summer there aren’t many [hockey] things for people to talk about, so this [Vesey watch] was something for people to talk about. Obviously there was pressure on him, but he brought it on himself, I guess. I feel like he would have been a good fit on our team, but he made the decision he did. I don’t know exactly why he made the decision that he didn’t want to stay [in Boston], but it’s his career and he has all the right to decide where it is he wants to play.”

So Vesey becomes just another Harvard grad headed to New York City to start his career, and the Bruins will likely turn to Vatrano or perhaps rookie playmaker Danton Heinen as left wing candidates alongside Krejci and David Pastrnak after Boston missed out on both Eriksson and Vesey this summer.