WILMINGTON – Bruins forward Milan Lucic was pondering the proficiency he and fellow winger Nathan Horton have developed with center David Krejci over the course of the last 14 months Friday after practice at Ristuccia Arena.
“He always seems to be there,” Lucic began his explanation.
Well, luckily for Lucic, Krejci should “be there” for at least as long as Lucic’s current contract with the Bruins runs (through next season) because the top-line pivot signed a three-year contract extension with the Bruins this week.
When Marc Savard went down, Krejci stepped into his role as the team’s prime offensive engine. Horton joined the fray last season, and the trio helped lead Boston to the Stanley Cup championship. Horton’s also signed through the end of next season, so there should be plenty of time to increase their camaraderie.
“I think that’s what makes the chemistry we have so great because we’re always there for each other,” Lucic continued when talking about Krejci. “And also Horty on the right wing, that’s what makes us a complete line. When we first started playing together, it was actually the first time that I had played with a right-handed centerman. And just naturally he looks first to his forehand. And obviously it’s worked out well between the two of us. It didn’t take too long for us to find our groove together because like I said, he always seems to put himself in the right spot and I think that’s why he’s had the success that he has.”
Lucic and Horton are the definition of “North-South” players, barreling up and down the wing and trying to hit everything in their path. They crash the net and are a handful for even the strongest opposing defensemen. Meanwhile, Krejci’s methodical in everything he does with or without the puck. While Lucic and Horton are about bashing in heads in an effort to score goals, Krejci’s cerebral and plays with his head anticipating what everyone around him is going to do so he can be one step ahead.
They might have seemed like an unlikely trio when they were first joined, and they even had to break up for a short time this season when the currently red-hot Bruins were in the doldrums, but Krejci, Lucic and Horton have melded into one of the premier lines in the NHL. Last season, they combined for 177 points in the regular season and 52 points in the playoffs.
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General manager Peter Chiarelli admitted that had he entered free agency (he would’ve been restricted), Krejci might’ve been able to attract more money from elsewhere. The center’s commitment to being part of a winning team combined with the club’s desire to keep him and its first line together to get a deal done.
Goaltender Tim Thomas relies on Krejci and his mates to provide offensive support. He’s been around since the time Krejci broke in with the Bruins as a rookie and watched him develop.
“I think he was pretty good right from the start,” said Thomas. “He’s just grown with experience and he just seems to be there when we need him.”
Thomas and the Bruins should now be able to count on Krejci being there into the second half of this decade.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operatesTheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.