It was a top effort by Krejci
Rookie capable fill-in for Savard
WILMINGTON - Before Tuesday's 6-2 win at Toronto, center David Krejci had played only one game this season without Marc Savard ahead of him on the Bruins' depth chart. On Oct. 10 against Anaheim, after Savard was sidelined by a groin injury, Krejci was among the centers tabbed to fill the playmaker's skates.
Krejci responded with a 24:20 effort against the Ducks, the most ice time he's seen this season. But what he'll remember from that game is a third-period staredown with center Ryan Getzlaf in the faceoff circle to the right of Tim Thomas. Krejci had won five of the six previous draws against Getzlaf. But this time, Anaheim's No. 1 center beat the rookie cleanly and slid the puck to the left point for then-Duck Shane Hnidy, who set up partner Francois Beauchemin for the winning one-timer in Boston's 2-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"You learn from your mistakes, right?" noted Krejci yesterday.
On Tuesday, he appeared to have learned something. With Savard out because of a back injury after he was hit by Montreal penalty killer Steve Begin last Saturday, Krejci served as Boston's No. 1 center against the Maple Leafs. He was one of five Bruins to register a 2-point night, as he netted the Bruins' second goal and assisted on Marco Sturm's winning power-play strike in the second period.
Krejci scored after parking himself squarely in front of goalie Vesa Toskala, providing a front-of-the-net presence the Bruins haven't had during their recent skid. After collecting a rebound off a Sturm shot, Krejci, with his back to the net, recognized that a quick backhand would be stuffed by the goalie. So he shifted slightly to his left to give himself a shooting lane and tucked a backhander past Toskala at 1:12 of the second.
Later in the period, with agitator Darcy Tucker serving a hooking penalty, Krejci saw several man-advantage options opening as he stickhandled at the left circle. Sturm started in the high slot, but when the Toronto penalty killers failed to collapse on him, the left wing drifted into the gut of the seam as he approached the net. Toskala, thinking Krejci might take an off-wing shot, couldn't recover when the center, after waiting for the lane to open, slid a diagonal pass to Sturm for the winner.
"The one thing that Dave's always had - and I know that from watching him in the past - is that he can be a very patient player," said coach Claude Julien, who rewarded the 21-year-old with a workload of 19:06 Tuesday. "That's why you've seen him on those five-on-threes in that position down on the goal line. He's capable of making those seam passes. He's smart at finding those seams, finding the right spot, and having the patience to make that play. That's why he's there. [Tuesday] night, he demonstrated that again on the half-wall."
Savard will not play in tonight's rematch at TD Banknorth Garden, making Krejci (4-16 -20 in 50 games) the top center once again.
"Probably in the last month, I saw a guy starting to find his comfort zone in this league, feels confident, and just keeps getting better," said Julien. "I think sometimes things happen to your elite players to give those guys an opportunity to step up. Right now, he's taken advantage of the opportunity that's been given to him."
Kobasew sidelinedChuck Kobasew, dropped by a Zdeno Chara heater in Tuesday's first period, didn't practice yesterday. Kobasew, who was struck near his left ankle, underwent a CT scan in the morning. As of yesterday afternoon, the Bruins had not learned the results.
If Kobasew is not available tonight, Peter Schaefer will return to the lineup. Schaefer was once projected to be Savard's left wing on the No. 1 line, but he has been a bust, especially at his $2.1 million price tag. Schaefer has been a healthy scratch in the last five games, last appearing March 13 in a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay. Yesterday, Schaefer (8-15 -23 in 57 games) skated with Vladimir Sobotka and Phil Kessel.
"Peter Schaefer hasn't played because he hasn't played as well as we'd like," said Julien. "I'm not going to hide that fact. We all saw that. But I still think he's an experienced player that I can put in the lineup. Hopefully, he's going to be able to step it up just like everybody else has. He's capable of doing that. If that situation arises, I hope he's ready to do that for us."
If Kobasew can't play, the Bruins are not eligible to get help from Providence via emergency recall because they have 12 healthy forwards. Matt Lashoff was promoted on emergency recall when Andrew Ference suffered a leg injury against Montreal because the Bruins had only five healthy defensemen.
Alberts betterAs of yesterday, by his recollection, Andrew Alberts (neck) had been headache-free for three or four consecutive days. Alberts must remain without headaches for one week before being cleared for full-contact practice. He sounded positive when asked if it would only require one full-contact practice before he's ready for game action. "I've had a few [contact practices]," said Alberts. "I'm able to hit guys, but they can't hit me. If I get one practice where I'm banging bodies and see how I feel the next day, I'll know more." . . . Patrice Bergeron was scheduled to undergo a neuro-psych test yesterday. If he passed, Bergeron would have cleared another stage in his recovery from a Grade 3 concussion. He is slated to see a neurologist today for further reevaluation. While Bergeron practiced yesterday and said he felt fine, it's unlikely he'll return for the regular season . . . Ference plans to skate this morning at the Garden. He will be reevaluated later today to determine his availability for tonight . . . Expect Thomas to start again.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.