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David Krejci, top line sputtering in playoffs

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In 19:43 of ice time Thursday, David Krejci had one shot.

MONTREAL — This is not the David Krejci that the Bruins are used to seeing in the postseason, nor is the top line what the Bruins are used to seeing. In past seasons, the Krejci line — along with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton — was a force in the playoffs, sometimes carrying the team.

Not so far this postseason.

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The line (Krejci, Lucic, Jarome Iginla) was nearly nonexistent in the first two periods of Thursday’s Game 4 at the Bell Centre, with just two shots on net from the trio, both from Lucic. At that time, the line was being outshot by both Torey Krug (4) and Kevan Miller (3), and Iginla, said he thought the line was pressing. Krejci was unable to create the space that he usually can, and the Bruins were suffering for it.

They got better, though only slightly, adding two more shots by Lucic and one by Krejci in the third period.

“Baby steps,” said Krejci, who has just three assists and no goals in nine playoff games this season. “But, we had some good looks. Iggy hit the post in the first period. It’s just about staying positive, go out there, if you’re not producing on the scoring sheet, then you’ve got to do other things well. I thought we had a strong defensive game, but we know we have to be better offensively. We’ll try to be better next game.”

That’s exactly what the Bruins need.

“[Krejci] puts a lot of pressure on himself to help lead the way and perform and stuff,” Iginla said. “I thought in the third he started taking over a little bit, getting it going. It’s one of those things, it’s always magnified in the playoffs if we’re not going as well as we think we should be or we should be.”

Iginla said the line needs to look at the way its been playing and try to get back to what it had been in the regular season. That’s especially true for Krejci.

“If you look at Game 1, Game 2, I had great looks,” Krejci said. “It is what it is. Just try to stay with it, stay positive, and I know all the guys are behind me. So just go out there, help them as much as I can maybe in different ways — block a shot, win faceoffs or whatever.”

Krejci and his line were more consistent and more productive in the regular season. The Bruins had put the “A” on Krejci’s jersey this season with the thought that it might help his consistency, and playing alongside Iginla helped.

But now they are in the playoffs, the time of year when Krejci has dominated. He’s not dominating in this series.

“Obviously you like to put the puck in the net,’’ Krejci said. “Everybody has a slump. There is no surprise that I’m in it right now, but I’m trying to help the team with the different ways right now. I believe I’m a good enough player that eventually it’s going to come.”

Asked if he’s had gone through this in his career, Krejci said, “In the playoffs? Probably never. But every player goes through that. This is my seventh time in the playoffs, so it is what it is. I won’t give up. I’ll keep pushing forward. I’m going to try to be better every game. Like I said, I’m a good enough player that it’s going to come.”

Player option

Carl Soderberg was missing from morning skate Thursday, but it was only because the center “took his option today,” according to coach Claude Julien . . . Julien shook up the line combinations in morning skate, going with some interesting groupings: Lucic-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson, Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Iginla, Daniel Paille-Krejci-Reilly Smith, and Matt Fraser-Jordan Caron-Shawn Thornton. “It just gives you [media] guys something to write about, so you don’t get bored,” said Julien. “Then tonight I can decide whether I want to stick with those or put my lines back to what I want. We have fun with things sometimes and that’s all we’re doing right now. We’re OK, we’re just having fun with things.”

Something missing

The fourth line, which has included both Justin Florek and Caron against the Canadiens, has struggled to find a rhythm. With Chris Kelly still out — there is no word on his availability, as he has not yet skated since being injured a month ago — the Bruins have been playing Paille with Soderberg and Eriksson. Asked about the Merlot Line, Julien said, “It’s not the same without Kelly on Soderberg’s line, either, because he was such a good fit on that line. That’s the way it goes. Those are part of injuries and those are part of moving guys around. That line’s been together for a long time, so there’s no doubt that when you take one of those guys out of there, it’s not the same thing.”

Follow Amalie Benjamin on Twitter at @amaliebenjamin.
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