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He’s ready for this dirty job

Krejci is missing penalty-kill work

Rangers left wing Brandon Dubinsky pokes the puck past Tim Thomas to score the tying goal in the third period. Rangers left wing Brandon Dubinsky pokes the puck past Tim Thomas to score the tying goal in the third period. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 5, 2011

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NEW YORK — The list of skilled centers absolved of regular penalty-killing duties includes some of the game’s brightest stars: Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, John Tavares.

The Bruins’ David Krejci does not want to join that club.

For most of the last three seasons, Krejci has been a regular in coach Claude Julien’s shorthanded rotation. Krejci, usually paired with good friend Blake Wheeler, killed penalties responsibly and often created shorthanded scoring chances.

But entering last night, the team’s leading scorer had totaled just 63 seconds of shorthanded ice time in his last 13 games. Krejci isn’t critical of Julien’s decision. But if it were up to him, the center would be rolling over the boards whenever his team is down a man.

“Yeah. I like it,’’ Krejci said. “I don’t want to be just a guy who’s scoring. I don’t want to be a guy just looking at points. I want to be a guy that teammates appreciate for a blocked shot or an important faceoff.’’

The Bruins upgraded their penalty-killing personnel when they acquired Chris Kelly from Ottawa and Rich Peverley from Atlanta. Including last night, Daniel Paille now has dressed in five straight games. Paille, once a regular healthy scratch, gives the Bruins another forward familiar with shorthanded situations.

With Wheeler shipped off to the Thrashers, Krejci lost his sharpest PK partner. And with more defensive-minded forwards on the roster now, Krejci has felt the biggest impact.

“I have to adjust my game,’’ Krejci said. “It’s not easy. I’ve been playing, for the past many years, everything. Now I don’t. I have to adjust my game a little bit. It’s a little different.’’

By resting during kills, Krejci can be fresher for even-strength and power-play situations. While shifts are short on the PK, they are intense, much more grueling than the duties, say, of being a power-play quarterback.

Lately, at the conclusion of most penalty kills, Julien has sent out Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton. Coaches usually tab their best players on the power play. The theory is that by deploying his first line, Julien can take advantage of his matchups.

“When the PK’s over, you come back with that top line,’’ Julien said. “It’s given us that luxury. I don’t think we’ve written [Krejci] off. But we certainly know that we’ve got that depth. I like the fact that I’ve been able to come back after the PK with some strength. Better strength than I’ve been able to throughout the year.’’

Krejci is averaging 1:16 of shorthanded ice time per game. He does not have any shorthanded points. Last year, Krejci had an average PK workload of 1:28 per game and recorded two man-down assists. In 2008-09, Krejci logged 1:46 of PK time per outing. That season, Krejci had two shorthanded goals and two PK assists.

Krejci’s biggest challenge has been jumping back into action following penalty kills. Before, when he logged several shorthanded shifts per game, Krejci felt like he was more engaged, physically and mentally. Now, although he can rest for two minutes, Krejci finds himself cold from being on the bench, detached from the flow of the game.

“Sometimes when you have a guy with you, he makes you better, you make him better,’’ Krejci said of his chemistry with Wheeler. “Then when guys leave, it’s hard to replace that guy to make you good again. It’s hard. We’ve got other new guys. Kelly, I remember him playing in Ottawa, and he was good on the PK. I’ve just got to suck it up and adjust my game.’’

Thornton sits Shawn Thornton sat out his third straight game because of the wound on his forehead. He could be cleared for tomorrow’s game against the Islanders. The tough guy is scheduled to have his stitches removed either today or tomorrow.

When Thornton returns to action, he most likely will not wear a shield. During an optional morning skate yesterday, Thornton practiced without a visor.

Before the injury, Thornton had been one of four Bruins to appear in every game. Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi, and Dennis Seidenberg are the others.

“I don’t like sitting out, but the season is a long grind,’’ Thornton said. “I was really hoping to play all 82. But rest isn’t a bad thing either. I can take some time to go out there and work on some things with the coaches. Then get back, hopefully, for [tomorrow].’’

Early scare Lucic missed most of pregame warmups after being struck above the right eye by a puck that deflected off the post. He required stitches to close the cut, then had zero shots in 16:13 of ice time . . . Paille led the Bruins with four shots and is just about guaranteed a spot on the fourth line to start the playoffs . . . Thornton was nominated for the Masteron Trophy by the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The trophy is awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey . . . Tyler Seguin could be in a fight with Michael Ryder to determine who gets the first crack at opening the playoffs in uniform. While Ryder had a first-period assist, Seguin went scoreless last night in a team-low 8:03 of ice time. “There’s still time to see that,’’ Julien, when asked if Seguin was ready for playoff hockey, said before the 5-3 loss. “I can’t stand here and say he’s in or say he’s out. I think we’re going to keep seeing him play. The one thing I can tell you is that in the last month and a half, he’s taken some good strides in regards to feeling more confident about his game. With a young player, there’s better games than others. Certainly he’s built more confidence in his game for himself and for us watching him than he did in the first half. That’s a good sign.’’ . . . Defensemen Steven Kampfer and Shane Hnidy were the healthy scratches.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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