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Kalman: Chemistry Test Comes Early For Bruins’ Top Two Lines

by Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
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Claude Julien (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Claude Julien (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — It only feels like David Krejci centered Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton forever.

In professional sports, three seasons of consistency can seem like an eternity.

But in the not-so-distant pre-Horton past, Krejci successfully centered the likes of Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder, Miro Satan and others, while Lucic once found great chemistry with the likes of Marc Savard and Phil Kessel.

So although Jarome Iginla has joined up to replace Horton on the right side of Krejci and Lucic, the Bruins’ top line isn’t necessarily starting from square one. The similarities between Horton, now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the 36-year-old Iginla might make this transition smooth.

Coach Claude Julien skated Krejci between Iginla and Lucic on the first day of training camp at TD Garden on Thursday.

“Yeah, you know what, they’re both shooters, they’re both right-handed, they play physical, they fight when they need to,” Krejci replied when asked to compare Horton and Iginla. “So they’re pretty much the same players. Jarome’s got obviously a little more experience and he proved himself so many times in the NHL that he can score 30-plus goals. I’m actually excited to have that kind of guy on my line and we’re going to try to do everything that we can to get a good chemistry going in training camp and go from there.”

During his team’s two practice sessions, Julien didn’t attempt to steal any sports radio attention from the Patriots or Red Sox. He went with the lines that most people expected to see when general manager Peter Chiarelli overhauled the top six over the summer. In addition to Iginla joining Krejci and Lucic, Loui Eriksson jumped into Tyler Seguin’s old spot next to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

The bottom line is, with the first preseason game coming up already on Monday, Julien’s seeking chemistry as quick as his star forwards can cook it up.

“Obviously it’s something that no matter who you play with it’s something that you have to work at,” Lucic said. “I think all three of us are determined to make it work and find that chemistry and the sooner that we do it the better we will be.”

The Lucic-Krejci-Horton marriage had stops and starts before it paid off in Stanley Cup championship glory. Marchand and Bergeron weren’t a perfect pair right off the bat. Everyone this side of the Sedin twins needs time to forge an on-ice relationship that turns into production.

By getting his top six set up this way early, Julien is giving those groups a chance to mesh and also giving himself time to test things out if he doesn’t see the type of play he likes and wants to experiment before the regular season opens. Now it’s up to Boston’s best players to make Julien’s decision easier.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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