With the Bruins on the brink of the postseason, there are some uncertainties, and one of them is the availability of Chris Kelly, who left the April 8 game against Minnesota in the third period and hasn’t been seen since. But what isn’t uncertain is the way that Kelly’s linemates, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, have meshed.
Though it would be a detriment to be without Kelly, the two Swedish forwards have developed good chemistry, something Eriksson guessed might have come from their shared background.
“Maybe the style we played when we were younger,” said Eriksson. “Maybe more keeping the puck and making small passes to each other. I think [Soderberg is] a great player with the puck. He can take his big body, he can make good plays out there.
“So just trying to build on every game we can and every practice we can try to help each other.”
The pairing has helped both become the players who were expected upon arriving in Boston. Eriksson was slowed by two concussions earlier this season, while Soderberg blossomed as a center. They have been split up quite a bit lately, with Eriksson filling in on the top line at times and with Kelly out of the lineup. But Soderberg said they could take a couple of months away from each other and immediately find that chemistry again.
“To play with Loui gives me a lot of confidence,” Soderberg said. “I didn’t play centerman last year, I was a winger, and last year when I played my games [with the team], I didn’t play for two months in the playoffs and I came right to the Final. But I feel confident [now] and I just want to keep this going.”
For the last two days, Eriksson and Soderberg have been skating with recent call-up Justin Florek. Whether it’s Florek or Kelly, the production from the third line is crucial for the Bruins. That was what helped them win the Cup in 2011, and what could help them win again.
“I feel comfortable with the fact that we have some depth at scoring this year, a little bit more than we did last year with those guys,” coach Claude Julien said. “But scoring is one thing — you know, we really limited Pittsburgh to very few goals with a lot of goal scorers there. So again, nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs. You’ve got to work for your goals.
“But our guys work hard, and they continue to do the things they were doing all year and push a little harder. There’s no doubt we have the ability to have some depth at scoring, but again, it’s up to us to go and show it and not so much talk about it.”
Said Soderberg, “I think that’s our strength as a team. We have two great top lines, but if the other team has two great top lines too, hopefully we have a little bit stronger third line. So we want to help the team win some games.”
But how much will the team be hobbled if Florek, who has played just four games with Boston this season, is required to skate in place of Kelly?
“I don’t know yet,” said Julien. “They’ve played one game together, and I can’t answer that because I haven’t seen them play enough together. But all I know is that he’s been a good player when he’s been called up a few games.’’
Talk to you later
The communication between brothers Reilly and Brendan Smith is being shut down. “I don’t think we’re going to talk much throughout the series,’’ Reilly said of Brendan, a Red Wings defenseman. “It’ll probably be pretty quiet.”
Reilly had been trying to milk Brendan for some information — like, say, the availability of Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg.
The pair spent their childhood playing in Game 7s, though they mostly played on opposite sides. So, in a way, they’ve been preparing to be in this situation all their lives.
It nearly happened in the Frozen Four in 2010, but Reilly’s Miami team lost in the semifinals and didn’t get to play Brendan’s Wisconsin team.
Now the brothers are competing on the biggest stage.
“I think I always wanted to play against him,” Reilly said. “I think back to our games and stuff, we were always on different teams competing for the Stanley Cup. It’s kind of dreams come true coming to the forefront.”
Their parents will be in the building for every game, with split loyalties — and perhaps split sweaters.
“They’ll probably be wearing a jersey sewed down the middle with Boston and Detroit,” Reilly said. “They’re just really excited that both of us have this opportunity and we’re able to share it with each other.”
Roles to fill
Asked about the absences of Kelly, Daniel Paille, and Matt Bartkowski from practice, Julien said, “I don’t know that it’s official yet, on any of that stuff. Today was another day where we added another player, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings. It’s hard for me to start giving you my lineup when I don’t know what’s going to happen day to day, so hopefully it continues to improve, which it has this week, and we’ll go from there.” Paille suffered what appeared to be a head injury on Saturday, and has not played since. Bartkowski’s injury is undisclosed and could be related to the “flu bug” that bothered the team earlier in the week. Kevan Miller returned to practice on Thursday . . . Dennis Seidenberg skated before the practice and it appeared he ramped it up, skating in tighter circles than previous days. The team is still not counting on Seidenberg for the playoffs.