The Boston Bruins’ search for David Krejci’s right wing was set to continue on Monday night.
So what else is new? Ever since Jarome Iginla left for Colorado after a one-year stint with the B’s there has been a revolving door on Krejci’s right.
But while that was once a major point of consternation heading into a season — it was once believed that Krejci needed to be with two big, straight-line wings like Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton — the 33-year-old centerman seems to be more adaptable than he was earlier in his career. Whether or not he believes that himself, Krejci wasn’t saying. His focus is on the big picture.
“I don’t know, I guess that’s up to you guys to decide,” said Krejci after Monday’s morning skate. “To me, I just want to go out there and help the team to win. When the team is winning, you come into practice the next day, everybody’s happy. We all love this sport and if you’re winning, it’s so much more enjoyable the next day at the rink.”
With a little more than a week to go before the season-opener in Dallas on Oct. 3, the leading candidates are Karson Kuhlman and possibly Brett Ritchie, who was getting his first chance to play with Krejci on Monday against the Flyers at TD Garden. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Ritchie is more in the Horton/Iginla mold, at least stylistically.
There are other possibilities. There’s Danton Heinen. There’s Anders Bjork, though he’s been playing mostly on left wing this camp as he tries to jump start his young, injury-riddled career. David Backes has played there, though he’s not considered a long-term solution. Charlie Coyle could possibly bump up there at some point, but head coach Bruce Cassidy has said repeatedly that he likes what Coyle gives the team as a third line center right now.
That’s a lot of variables and a wide array of styles, but Krejci was well aware of the situation coming into camp, thanks to communication with Cassidy. He’s learned to deal with it.
“We talk a lot. We talked about this kind of situation last year, the last couple of years as well,” said Krejci, who has enjoyed a constant on his left side with Jake DeBrusk the last two seasons. “But it is what it is. It’s nothing new to me. I know every single player on this team. I know they can all play. I always just have to adjust to what kind of player is on the line at that moment ... Brett wasn’t here last year but I like what I’ve seen in practice. He’s a big strong guy. He’s really good with the stick. I’m excited to see what we can do together.”
Krejci has also been bullish on Kuhlman.
“We had some great games last year. It’s going to be interesting to see how things are going to unfold but we had some practices this training camp,” said Krejci. “I know what to expect from him. He complements my game pretty well. We’ll see how things turn out.”
There was a time when Krejci was perceived as being finicky about who played on his line but that seems less and less the case, though Cassidy could see how some players might find him intimidating to play with for some guys.
“He likes to have the pucks in certain areas. I think he could be intimidating if you don’t see the game as well as he does because he wants players to go to certain spots when he has the puck,” said Cassidy. “But part of that’s on him to communicate that as well and letting chemistry develop.”
Krejci has done a good job of shepherding DeBrusk into the league, and helping him become a productive NHL player. Perhaps he’ll do the same for Kuhlman, or maybe he’ll help the veteran Ritchie find his stride. While Cassidy couldn’t speak to what Krejci was like earlier in his career — “I only know what you guys wrote,” he joked — the coach said he’s been amenable to dealing with the uncertainties of the situation.
“I’ve found him to be very adaptable, for obvious reasons. We’ve used a lot of different guys there,” said Cassidy. “I think he has guys he prefers to play with and he’ll tell you that, but so does (Patrice Bergeron), so does (Sean) Kuraly, so does Coyle. At the end of the day, I think he’s been very good about different linemates. He’s done a done a good job. He had (73) points last year. I think what he’s tried to do is just go out and play and pull along whoever is on his wing.”
And, somehow, Krejci has figured out a way to make it work.