|DAVID KREJCI Big impact vs. Blues|
Lift provided by a new wing
Krejci adjusting nicely to switch
BUFFALO - As a right wing, one of David Krejci’s new responsibilities is to be the first man in on the forecheck instead of the third guy high.
So in the first period of Wednesday’s 4-2 win over St. Louis, when Krejci, a natural center, spotted Kris Russell fishing for the puck behind the Blues net, he did his job.
Krejci closed the gap on Russell. With a ferocity usually shown by Nathan Horton, the man whose position he is filling, Krejci leveled Russell. And even though he’s better known as a skilled and shifty center, Krejci didn’t mind being a thump-first wingman.
“It was fun,’’ Krejci said after yesterday’s practice at the First Niagara Center. “It was something different. I enjoyed it.’’
Because of the fierceness of Krejci’s wallop, Russell turned the puck over to Joe Corvo. The defenseman hammered a shot on net, and Milan Lucic tipped the puck past Blues goalie Brian Elliott to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
Had Krejci not landed such a wicked hit, the goal wouldn’t have come.
“That’s what we needed - guys to get out of their comfort zone a little bit and be willing to do whatever needed to be done to win a hockey game,’’ said coach Claude Julien.
“David threw a real good check behind the net. He turned the puck over. Before you knew it, the puck was in the net. He was probably a major contributor on that goal, in my mind.’’
Krejci has always been a center. But with the Bruins struggling to create scoring chances, Julien shifted him to the right side in the third period of Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Minnesota. With Chris Kelly centering Lucic and Krejci, the line put together some good sniffs against the Wild.
In St. Louis, the three continued their up-tempo play, combining for seven of Boston’s 19 shots. In the final minute of the first period, Lucic set up Kelly for a net-front strike that halted a St. Louis rally. Krejci (20:03 of action) trailed only Patrice Bergeron (20:04) among Bruins forwards in ice time.
Krejci’s high-pace performance underscored how critical he is to the team. When he plays with passion and purpose, he makes opponents backtrack. Krejci helps give the Bruins two scoring lines instead of one.
And Julien was prompt to credit Kelly for reading off Krejci to keep the line responsible defensively.
“Just because he started on the wing doesn’t mean he ended up there,’’ Julien said. “There were times he was the low guy in our end or in the middle. Kells would take the wing. I thought those guys really did a great job reading off each other. Looch played his side of the ice and played it well. That’s why that line had success.’’
Naturally, Carter Camper was nervous when he hit the ice at 2:29 of Wednesday’s first period. It was his first NHL shift. His first big-league faceoff. His parents, fiancée, and brother were watching from the Scottrade Center stands.
So it probably helped that nine seconds after winning his first-ever faceoff, teammate Adam McQuaid threw down with B.J. Crombeen.
“Kind of felt good to get that first shift out of the way,’’ Camper said with a smile yesterday. “After that, my nerves kind of settled down. After that, it was just another hockey game.’’
Julien acknowledged the challenge of Camper’s situation. The Bruins were in a two-game losing streak. They were without Horton and Rich Peverley. They were squaring off against a sturdy club that hadn’t suffered a regulation home loss in 21 games.
Amid all of that, Julien thought Camper held his own.
“You’ve got to remember that we played one of the best teams in the Western Conference,’’ said Julien. “It was a tough start for him to be thrown in. But I didn’t mind his game. He’s smart. I thought his hockey sense was good.’’
Neither Camper nor Jordan Caron played in the third period, as Julien rolled three lines instead of four. In practice yesterday, Camper centered Josh Hennessy and Benoit Pouliot.
If there was anything that struck Camper about his debut, it was how calm and upbeat his teammates were on the bench and in the dressing room. The Bruins handed away a two-goal lead, but Camper didn’t feel much negativity when things didn’t break their way.
“I was really impressed with how positive guys are and how upbeat everyone is,’’ Camper said. “Obviously I’ve been following them all year. It seems that things haven’t been going the way they’d like them to. But I was extremely impressed with how confident guys still are.’’
Right back at it
The Bruins flew from St. Louis to Buffalo yesterday morning. Upon arrival, they traveled directly to the rink and ran through a 40-minute practice. “That’s probably the most important message right now,’’ Julien said of keeping his team focused after the road win. “If we want to get ourselves going in the right direction, it’s to be able to follow up with another type of effort like we had last night. Hopefully it will give us a little bit of momentum and confidence.’’ . . . Shawn Thornton didn’t practice. He played against St. Louis despite being under the weather . . . Brad Marchand took some ribbing after practice from his teammates. Yesterday morning, during an interview with WEEI, Marchand called Buffalo the worst city in the league. “I didn’t mean to offend anyone,’’ Marchand explained later. “It’s always cold and rainy when we come here, and I was just kind of playing around.’’ One smiling teammate to Marchand: “Put your muzzle on.’’ Another teammate: “And where will you be having dinner tonight?’’