Krejci, Boychuk back on the ice as Bruins hold a rare Sunday practice

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Krejci, Boychuk back on the ice as Bruins hold a rare Sunday practice

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON -- Claude Julien usually gives the Bruins Sundays off. But after back-to-back losses marked by fatigue and, more recently, the disappearance of their transition game, the B's got back to work Sunday afternoon at Ristuccia Arena in preparation for their game against the New Jersey Devils Monday night at the TD Garden.

David Krejci was back skating with the team for the first time since sufferng a concussion just over a week ago. He rotated on the top line with Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton.

Krejci isn't yet able to dish out or receive contact. While he passed the appropriate bike tests to return to practice, he still has to pass additional tests in order to return to game action.

"I still have some testing to do," said Krejci. "I don't know, I've got to talk to my trainers about it. I don't want to set the exact game or the date."

"It's another step in the right direction," said Julien. "He's happy, and we're happy to see him, so let's keep our fingers crossed, and hopefully it keeps progressing.

"We don't really know," added Julien, when asked when he could return. "Concussions are concussions, and it's really hard to pinpoint. You could have a setback, or doctors might say we want to hold him back for a little longer. That's the part that we don't know."

Johnny Boychuk (broken left forearm) also took part in the practice session. Julien said after practice that Boychuk's cast will be downsized in the next few days and his return has more to do with how he feels.

"In his case, as soon as he feels good enough, where it doesn't hurt him anymore, and he's capable of using his stick and playing, will be the day, I guess, that he's cleared to go," said Julien. "So a lot of it is going to be up to him, from here on in, because he's probably going to have to play a little bit, with a cast, for the first week or so."

And while the return of Krejci may steal the headlines on Sunday, one can't overlook the fact that Julien also tweaked his lines a little bit.

Shawn Thornton and Michael Ryder switched places, with Thornton moving to Tyler Seguin's wing, along with Daniel Paille, and Ryder moving to the wing with Greg Campbell and Brad Marchand.

"It's something I did for today," said Julien. "When you haven't won too many games lately, it's unfortunate, because we feel like we're maybe a little bit handcuffed. We're short in the middle, and there's not a ton of options. And today we just made that little change.

"Whether it stays like that Monday, or not, or whether I start with it against New Jersey and then change, I don't really know. I think right now, it's kind of us trying to feel our way through, maybe trying to find something that's going to spark our offense a little bit more."

Julien mentioned after Saturday night's 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators that the Bruins have been suffering from a non-existent transition game, which also has contributed to a lack of offense as of late.

Krejci's absence certainly has certainly had an affect, but until he returns, the B's will continue to tweak the things that they can, with the players they have.

"That's what we were doing Sunday," said Julien. "A lot of transition, get some speed through the neutral zone, and in order to have that, it's important that our guys all come back. We have tendencies, through the course of the season, sometimes you get lazy, without knowing that you're getting lazy.

"And you have to work back hard, and come up together as a five-man unit. And right now, I think, looking at Saturday night's game, and looking it over again, we were spread out a little bit too wide, and there's not much support with the puck carrier. So we need to be a little bit closer together, and be a little bit more supportive of each other on the ice."

The line of Mark Recchi, Blake Wheeler, and Jordan Caron remained the same, and with Boychuk practicing again, all seven defensemen were present, along with both Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

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Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

It’s not difficult to see why Austin Czarnik might have been a little overlooked headed into this Bruins training camp when forecasting favorites among the forwards to win a roster spot on the big club. After all he’s only 5-foot-9 and 167-pounds coming off just one very solid season at the AHL level for the Providence Bruins, and there are bigger, stronger forwards candidates that maybe rank a bit higher on the prospect list than him.

But the 23-year-old Czarnik put together an excellent training camp last fall before finishing with 20 goals and 61 points for the P-Bruins last season, and now he’s doing the exact same thing again this time around.

“Yeah, I feel more comfortable. I think we could have been a lot better in a lot of areas. Overall I think everyone is just happy to be back on the ice,” said Czarnik, who along with Frank Vatrano was one of the real starts of camp last season. “You know that type of mentality and you know mistakes are going to happen, and you’ve just got to move forward from it so everyone’s happy to be back.”

The former Miami University star is clearly happy to be back, and it’s showing on the ice with each chance he gets to show his tenacity, withering fore-check and his willingness to crash the net despite his smallish stature.

Czarnik was one of the most dangerous forwards on the ice for the Black and Gold in their preseason opener, and collected a key assist on Boston’s first goal of the game when he pushed a puck through the neutral zone before setting up on odd man rush for Jimmy Hayes and Jake DeBrusk.

This time around Czarnik scored the game’s only goal on a nifty rush during four-on-four play through the offensive zone by Ryan Spooner, who drew in the defense and dished to Czarnik for a wide open tap-in chance.

So it’s a couple of big plays in each of the first two preseason games that led to goals, and a genuinely excellent level of play throughout both contests. It’s something the Bruins coaching staff has taken note of along with his skating speed and hardnosed mentality, and now they have to figure if it fits in with their other NHL pieces.

“We were just talking about it. Everybody has that same feeling. He’s playing well. He moves well. He’s on the puck. He competes, and that’s the thing you’re looking for really,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “Like right now, we know there’s going to be mistakes made by a lot of our players, especially the younger ones.

“We’re looking to see who’s got that competitive, you know, that competitive fire. [We’re looking for] who’s going to go out there and who can compete at a high level. I know he’s not big in stature, but he plays bigger than he is. He’s had two pretty good games so far.”

Czarnik had a couple of good games early in B’s camp last year before flat-lining a bit at the end when the NHL jobs were seriously on the line, and the 23-year-old wants that story to change endings this time around. It remains to be seen where he’s going to fit as yet another center among Boston’s group of training camp players this month, but Czarnik might just force the Bruins to make a tough decision if he keeps playing at his current high level.   

Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

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Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

GOLD STAR: Take your pick: Steve Ott, Drew Miller and Luke Glendening torched the Bruins with veteran savvy and toughness against a very young defensemen unit trying to survive in the second preseason game. Ott and Glendening each scored a goal and finished with three points, and Miller finished with a goal and two points while all three forwards had a plus-3 rating for the night. All of their goals came off winning battles, crashing the net and taking advantage of defensive miscues. The goals provided a good lesson to the young kids that have a ways to go before they’re NHL ready at this point in their careers. It certainly must have been a kick to the stones to many Bruins fans when “Brave” Steve Ott was named the No. 1 Star of the game after it was all over, but that was certainly appropriate.

BLACK EYE: Adam McQuaid was the most experienced defensemen out on the ice for the Bruins on Wednesday night, and it was a rough night for him with so many young guys around him on the back end. McQuaid finished a minus-2 in 17:41 with a couple of hits and got a little better as the game was going on, but was on ice for two of the first three goals allowed to Detroit in a really lackluster middle section of the game. In general, it was about more than just one player, though. There were blown assignments in the D-zone and some really noticeable lost battles leading to scoring chances for a Red Wings group that aggressively took it to the Bruins. This is a game that will leave the Bruins coaches with plenty of video material moving forward.

TURNING POINT: The real slippage came early in the game when the Bruins failed to score on some good power play chances for Peter Mueller and Matt Beleskey, and then allowed two goals within 19 seconds of each other in the first period. The first goal was a PP one for the Red Wings with Ryan Spooner whistled for a face-off infraction, and the second was simply the Bruins falling asleep at the wheel just seconds after the first goal was scored. Lost battles led to a bang-bang play in front with Steve Ott scoring as Malcolm Subban was turned around looking for the puck, and the B’s were reeling headed into the first intermission. Only a Subban shoulder save kept it from being 3-0 at the end of the first, and that was something the B’s never seemed to rebound from.

HONORABLE MENTION: Austin Czarnik scored the B’s only goal off a nice play from Ryan Spooner driving toward the net, and continues to put together another strong training camp after doing the same thing last season. Czarnik finished with the goal, three shots on net and six shot attempts in 17:38 of ice time, and battled back from a rough start to go 6-for-12 in the face-off circle while centering an extremely young line with Sean Kuraly and Zach Senyshyn. While Czarnik might not have been a big name when talking about an open roster spot with the Bruins a couple of weeks ago, he’s pushed toward making himself a part the conversation with his heart-filled, high effort energetic performances for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-for-16 was the final tally for Ryan Spooner in the face-off circle as he continues to be a work-in-progress on the draw.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Maybe I was a little bit shocked first going out there. The speed of the game is noticeably faster, but I think as time went on I got more comfortable out there. Hopefully I can build off that moving forward.” – Bruins rookie D-man Matt Grzelcyk on his first NHL preseason game being a bit of a big wakeup call.