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Kalman: Bruins’ 3rd Line Hitting Stride

By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
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Boston Bruins forward Reilly Smith. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Boston Bruins forward Reilly Smith. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – David Krejci is the Bruins’ co-leader in scoring and Saturday afternoon he was the hero with a game-winning goal in overtime.

But he wouldn’t have been in a position to beat Carolina had it not been for an earlier goal by Reilly Smith. And the Bruins wouldn’t have earned a point in a shootout loss to St. Louis on Thursday had Carl Soderberg not tied up the game with a goal.

The Bruins’ third line is starting to hit its stride, and that’s all right in Krejci’s book.

“The season is pretty long. Eighty two games, it’s a lot of games. And your top two lines are not going to score goals every single night,” Krejci said. “So the good teams they need the bottom two lines as well to put the puck in the net. … We have a good team, a good four lines and we’ve just got to keep it rolling.”

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So while Krejci and Milan Lucic are sharing the team scoring lead with 17 points, the third line of Smith, Soderberg and Chris Kelly is also chipping in, sometimes at important times. Smith, Soderberg and Kelly have been together consistently for 10 games now and you can see how much they’ve jelled since Soderberg joined the lineup from an ankle injury early in the year.

The Bruins’ third-line forwards have combined for four goals and six assists in the past four games. They could’ve scored plenty more. Soderberg missed an empty net against Carolina and was stopped on an overtime breakaway against St. Louis. Smith and Kelly have also missed their share of chances. But that’s the sign that this Bruins’ third line is starting to contribute the way it did in the old days, when Kelly was centering Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder. As great as that line was in the clutch, they weren’t called “high glass” for nothing.

Soderberg says he’s healthier now after working out the kinks from the ankle problem. Smith, just 22 years old, is getting comfortable playing a key role on a contending team as a NHL sophomore. And Kelly, well …. he’s still just Chris Kelly, doing the little things and making sure the line has a conscience.

“They’re reading off of each other extremely well … they’re anticipating, so they’re always on top of the puck,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We still have some lines right now that are kind of waiting to see what the puck carrier is going to do with it and you hope that with time we can get that same level as that third line is right now of anticipating well.”

Read: More From Matt Kalman On CBS Boston

The Bruins wouldn’t want to rely on their third line for the majority of their scoring in the long run. But Krejci’s line has slowed down a bit since a torrid start and Patrice Bergeron’s line is still trying to find its footing. So if Kelly’s line can just hold down the fort a little longer the Bruins can keep winning and then pass off the offensive burden to one of the bigger-money lines in the near future.

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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