By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After checking the expiration date and reading that his passport wouldn’t expire until next summer, Bruins center David Krejci thought he was all set to take the trip to play in the China Games.
He was wrong.
Because of a miscommunication, the 32-year-old didn’t realize he needed to all the pages to be blank, and the Czech Republic native had seven or eight pages with one stamp on each. So while a majority of his longtime teammates were celebrating their exhibition-season victory against Calgary with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Great Wall on Sunday, Krejci was centering the Bruins’ first line on a steamy Boston afternoon during a 2-1 exhibition win against Washington.
Krejci said the error was “disappointing” but his approach to training camp hasn’t changed. And looking at his situation from afar, it’s easy to find positives in Krejci staying stateside rather than traveling to the other side of the world.
First, had Krejci traveled to China, his wife and daughter would probably have stayed at the couple’s home in South Carolina, where they would’ve had to evacuate because of the arrival of Hurricane Florence. It would’ve been harrowing for Krejci to know what his family was going through while away. Instead, his family’s safe and sound in Boston with him.
Second, Krejci has a history of back and hip issues that have crept up and cost him playing time the past several seasons. Two 14-to-16-hour flights might not have agreed with him and could’ve put a crimp in his training camp plans.
Lastly, Krejci might be forging a relationship with a right wing that could turn into a lasting partnership. Second-year forward Danton Heinen was never scheduled to take this China trip with the Bruins because he took one over the summer on a promotional tour. Heinen’s the only healthy wing under contract in the Bruins’ U.S.-based camp with top-six experience in the NHL, so it was natural that the Bruins put the two players together.
Krejci centered Heinen and rookie Ryan Fitzgerald (who projects to be more of a bottom-six type in the NHL despite scoring 21 goals in the AHL last season) against the Capitals on Sunday. Although they were clearly facing Washington’s ‘C’ team, they took advantage of the sagging defense and pressured the Capitals throughout. Krejci was orchestrating the offense at a midseason pace and helped Heinen and Fitzgerald land three shots on net each.
Although they didn’t make it onto the scoresheet, the trio made its mark. And the Krejci/Heinen combo took its first step toward becoming 2/3 of a second line.
“Could have had easily a few goals, but that’s how it goes, you know. It’s not really so much about goals now, just to get the good habits,” Krejci said.
Last season, Krejci had 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 64 games playing mostly with Jake DeBrusk on his left side and an assortment of forwards on his right. DeBrusk is over in China playing the same type of speedy, straight-line game that would make him a fit for any line, but will probably land him back with Krejci because of the success they had last season. DeBrusk had 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games as a rookie, and followed that up with six goals in 12 postseason games.
Despite spending four games with Providence and playing most of his 77 NHL games on the third line, Heinen finished last season with 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists). Somewhat wise beyond his 23 years of age, Heinen is a hybrid between the speedy and burly wings that usually flank Krejci. He can be a burner but he can also cycle with his expert puck-protection skills. His hockey sense helps him quickly adjust to different situations and linemates.
“Yeah, I think, you’ve just got to be more patient, and you know he’s going to hang onto it and he will find you,” Heinen said of playing with Krejci. “So yeah, I think just … things happen when the puck is in his hands and … it was fun to play with him.”
Like the rest of us that missed out on the Bruins’ trip to China, Krejci had to watch his probable left wing play against the Flames on television after the game was replayed at a more reasonable time in the Eastern Time Zone. But Krejci just might be finding his right wing closer to home.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.