MIDDLETON — Loui Eriksson barely had made his adjustments when the first hit came. The right wing, shipped from Dallas to Boston in the offseason Tyler Seguin trade, was in just his eighth game for his new team when John Scott came calling.
And then, five weeks later, Eriksson was concussed again. The head injuries limited Eriksson to 61 games for the Bruins, after he had missed just three games in the previous five seasons combined. They also limited his effectiveness, as he struggled to adapt the Bruins system, only seeming to put it all together near the end of the year.
Asked Monday if the transition was more difficult than he expected, Eriksson said, “A little bit.”
He added, “I thought it would be easier to adjust to a different system with everything, but it took some time. It was definitely hard. It wasn’t easy to [have] those concussions too. I thought after the Olympics I felt better, I learned the system a little bit better, even the playoffs felt really good.
“It’s definitely nice to play one season, and I’m really looking forward to the next.”
So are the Bruins.
It may be even more crucial for Eriksson to find his way in Boston this season, as he stands as the most likely candidate to replace Jarome Iginla on the team’s top line entering training camp. General manager Peter Chiarelli repeatedly has said that he could see Eriksson playing alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci, a place where Eriksson showed some skill at the end of the regular season.
As Chiarelli said at the start of free agency, “I’m really comfortable with that. It’s a different look, but he’s a smart player. He’s a great two-way player. He plays a very smart game. But having said that, he can move down the lineup and he’s comfortable with it.
“So the options are there. It would be nice to get a right shot — that would be a priority at some point — but I have no problem with Loui playing on that top line, and I’ve talked to Krech about it and he welcomes it. If you watch how Loui plays, he plays a real give-and-go game, and he’s very smart — he’s very compatible with Krech.”
The Bruins, of course, have failed to land that right-shot winger to join the top line. That, for the moment, leaves Eriksson, who expressed interest in playing with Lucic and Krejci Monday, when he joined a few of his teammates at Shawn Thornton’s “Putts & Punches for Parkinson’s” golf tournament at Ferncroft Country Club.
Eriksson saw what he could do on that line in a late-season cameo, replacing the injured Iginla. He liked what he saw.
“It’s definitely two great players to play with,” Eriksson said. “I played two games with them last season, and it was nice. We’ll see when the preseason starts here, and maybe practice together a little bit, we’ll see how things are working out.
“They’re two smart players and they’ve been playing together for a couple years, so they know each other real well. So just go in there and try to help them out a lot.”
With a promotion in mind, Eriksson said he has tailored his offseason workouts to a potentially upgraded role, adding “maybe a little more quickness and getting a little bit faster out there. That’s something I’ve been working on.”
It’s something that, he hopes, will reverse what happened last season, when he endured a year that was disappointing by the standards he had set with the Stars. He scored just 10 goals and added 27 assists for 37 points. Before the lockout season in 2012-13, when he scored 29 points, Eriksson had tallied at least 71 points in each of the three previous years.
He had started the season playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, expected to demonstrate what had led him to be labeled “underrated” for most of his time in Dallas. That didn’t quite happen, and he was replaced by Reilly Smith because of his injuries.
Eriksson finally seemed to discover his rhythm and touch when Carl Soderberg was moved to center, with Chris Kelly on his other wing. That grouping, of course, remains an option for the Bruins this season. But it appears more likely that Eriksson will move to an even bigger role.
“I think I can bring a bit more,” Eriksson said. “I really want to show everyone that I can play really good. So this summer’s been really big for me too, to get in shape and get ready for the season coming here. So I’m looking forward to it.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.