When Chris Kelly was asked about last season, the portions that were a struggle, he quipped, “I’m glad you’re being nice.”
The Bruins’ third-line center fractured his left tibia last March, and didn’t find his game again until the end of the postseason.
It wasn’t easy for him, and it was a tough slog for the Bruins, who had relied on production from the third line.
“Last year was a tough year,” Kelly said. “But I definitely felt a lot better as the playoffs went on, and especially in the Finals, I felt like my legs were back to where I wanted them to be. I had a good offseason, and no issues there.
“I’m excited to get back skating and playing hard. Knowing you have new linemates, it’s a new challenge. That’s something I think all of us are looking forward to.”
And coach Claude Julien is looking forward to getting Kelly back on track.
“Maybe starting where he left off in that last round,” Julien said. “I thought in that last round he was much better. I thought he played some of his best hockey then, and it seemed like he was finding his game again.
“I thought after that injury it really took him a long time to find his game. He just didn’t seem to be quite the same player.
“Not only that, I think after a while it got in his head and the pressure of not scoring and the expectations and the new contract, everything else, kind of weighed on a player.
“Whether you’re a veteran or not, you’re there, you want to be a positive attribute to your team.”
Kelly would like to get back to that point, to where he can be that for the Bruins. But with a third-line competition swirling around him, he’s not taking anything for granted.
“Competition is great,” Kelly said. “I’d like to be put in that mix, that I’m competing for a spot just like everyone else is. That’s the way personally I’m approaching this.”
Julien praised Torey Krug for saying that he has to earn his spot, calling it the right attitude. The coach added, “You don’t want to be a flash in the pan. I don’t think he is, but it’s up to him to continue to prove that he belongs.” . . . The Bruins might start cutting players as soon as Monday, before the first exhibition game against the Canadiens in Montreal. But it’s unlikely to be many, given that they want to keep the veterans fresh by giving significant minutes to prospects and others competing for spots. “You don’t want to overtax certain players, veterans that played a lot last year, so you keep guys around and give them a look,” Julien said . . . The second episode of “Behind the B” will air on NESN on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m.