EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 30, 2009

Healthy again, Krejci eying career year

On Pro Hockey

Quiet by nature, David Krejci sits silently in his locker at the TD Garden, anxiously awaiting the Bruins' season opener tomorrow night.

Whether or not he'll play, who knows?

He might downplay it, but the offseason has been a long and at times tumultuous one for the easy-going center.

Last May, the Bruins were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes. He finished with a modest eight points in 11 postseason games and he was in agony.

This quiet, reserved kid — he's just 23 — is as tough as nails. Krejci played the entire season with a hip injury.

"There wasn't one day it didn't bother me (last) year," said Krejci, the Bruins' second-leading scorer with 22 goals and 51 assists. "Every day I woke up, every move I did, I knew there was something wrong.

"In the middle of the season, we did an MRI and then we saw it. So we knew there would be surgery after the season. We didn't talk about it that much. We just decided to play it out."

Krejci, who stands a modest 6-feet and 178 pounds, underwent surgery in June to remove a hip impingement, a mechanical disorder which causes stiffness and at times severe pain.

He practiced with the team for much of training camp, but has not appeared in any preseason action.

"They said four-to-six months and next week is four months," said Krejci, who hails from Sternberk, Czech Republic. "I have worked hard at getting in shape all summer. I really only took two weeks off. I've been working all summer for this first game (tomorrow)."

Throughout the preseason, Krejci has hinted that there was a 10 percent chance he'd be ready for opening night. Originally, it was thought that he might be out of action until November.

"It's better than 10 percent," he said. "But I'll be a game-day decision."

His tireless work ethic this summer hasn't surprised anyone within the organization. Faced with the dilemma of re-signing Krejci or winger Phil Kessel due to salary-cap restrictions, the Bruins chose Krejci.

"We'll see if he's ready to go," said head coach Claude Julien.

Krejci has been practicing on a line between wingers Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder.

"He's comfortable with those guys," said Julien. "That line also worked well for us last year, so why fix what isn't broken? He's ready for the challenge of getting back on the ice and he'll give it a try when he's ready. He's worked real hard this summer getting in shape and he's looked good."

Before his surgery, Krejci cashed in a new three-year contract worth $11.25 million. Almost $2 million cheaper than the price the Maple Leafs paid Kessel two weeks ago, and Krejci is the more valuable player.

Coaches say 'you can't coach scoring' and Kessel brings that dynamic every time he steps on the ice. But Krejci is more well-rounded. He wins faceoffs, he's a two-way player, he can score goals and he makes the players on his line better.

Unlike Kessel, he also comes up big in big games. Of his 22 goals last season, half were against playoff teams. With Kessel, just 19.4 percent (7 of his 36 goals) came against playoff teams.

Michael Ryder netted 14 goals his last year with the Montreal Canadiens in 2007-08. Last year, his first as a Bruin, Ryder nearly doubled his goal production (27) with Krejci mostly centering his line.

"He's great," Ryder said during last year's postseason, in which he scored five goals and 13 points in 11 games with Krejci as his pivot. "Some of the things he does on the ice is just incredible. You'll be in an area where you don't think he can see you, or you think you have to get in better position for him to send you the puck, and before you know it, it's hitting your stick. It amazes me sometimes."

Krejci gives the Bruins a first-line center on their second line. And, with current first-line pivot Marc Savard entering the last year of his contract, Krejci's role could grow.

"I hope I'll be even better this year than I was last year because you go to the game and you know something is bothering you, then it's in your head," Krejci said. "I just wanted to get through the games. I believe that, once it's done, I'll be ready to go."

Scoring when it counts

David Krejci's scoring:

15 of his 27 career goals have come in the third period or overtime.

5 of those 15 goals have been game-winners.

85 of his 100 career points have come in wins.