Loui Eriksson has had only a taste of what it is like to skate with new linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Eriksson said he hoped to have the chance to play a game with Bergeron and Marchand, and he won’t have to wait any longer.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said Bergeron will play Saturday against the Red Wings at Detroit. Bergeron has not played since puncturing his lung, separating his shoulder, breaking a rib, and tearing rib cartilage in last season’s playoffs.
Eriksson made his Bruins’ debut Tuesday in a preseason game against Washington, skating with Marchand and Alexander Khokhlachev.
It’s been less than two weeks since training camp opened, and while Eriksson has skated with Bergeron and Marchand in practice, time is needed to develop chemistry.
Eriksson said playing together in a game is a significant step, and will serve as a barometer of the line’s early progress.
“It’s getting better and better every day, it feels like,” Eriksson said. “We need some more games and that’s where you get a good feeling of where you’re at.
“[Bergeron’s] a really good player to play with, and it’s going to be nice to get some games with him too, to see what we can do out there. That’s how we work on things.”
Julien has said he was encouraged by what he saw from Eriksson in his debut.
But like Eriksson, Julien seemed eager to see how the new-look line will perform in a game.
“You’ll see [Eriksson] get better, even I think than last game,” Julien said. “Bergy’s not there so that does make a difference for any line. [Marchand] was trying to do too much in Baltimore and he was all over the ice, so I think with Bergy there, it will settle things down a bit.
“You’ll probably see [Eriksson] excel even more and be a player we all know he’s going to be.”
Bergeron’s line has been counted on to provide strong play in all three zones, and is particularly commended for its defensive prowess.
It all starts with Bergeron and his ability to win faceoffs. Last year, he won 62.1 percent, among the best in the league.
Eriksson, a consistent goal scorer in Dallas (his high was 36 in 2008-09), said he is willing to play a more defensive style on Bergeron’s line.
“Sometimes they used me that way [in Dallas], and sometimes we always started in the offensive zone,” Eriksson said. “Bergy is really good on faceoffs, so that’s really important to have a good faceoff guy in the defensive zone to win those faceoffs too.
“I’m just going to try and do my best and do everything I can to help the team.”
The stakes are high for Reilly Smith, who is competing for a wing position on the third line.
He didn’t play Thursday night against Detroit, but he did play Tuesday against Washington, alongside center Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron.
It’s a situation Smith has been in before. After playing at the start of last year’s NHL lockout in the AHL, he played 37 games with the Stars.
Smith, who was acquired as part of the offseason trade that brought Eriksson to Boston in exchange for Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley, is still conscious of the hard work required to crack the roster.
“It was the same thing last year,” Smith said. “Especially the first half of the year in the AHL. I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to play and I did well in that camp.
“I wouldn’t say it’s nothing new. Just because I’ve done it only once before doesn’t make me very good at it. I’m just trying to keep it simple, not overthink everything.”
Smith said he is feeling more comfortable in the Bruins’ system.
“When you first come in you don’t know what to expect,’’ Smith said. “The first couple days, maybe even a week, you’re just trying to get your feet wet. The comfort level is definitely higher, but at the same time there’s still a lot more to go.”
Smith might have a chance Saturday to settle a score with his brother, Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith.
“I played against him four times last year and I think we split the series, so there’ll probably be something on the line tomorrow,” Reilly said. “We’re pretty competitive. There were a couple heated battles in the AHL and NHL, so I don’t think tomorrow will be any different.”
The Bruins cut nine from camp: forwards Anthony Camara, Alex Fallstrom, Rob Flick, Seth Griffith, Khokhlachev, and Jared Knight; and defensmen Chris Casto, Tommy Cross, and Joe Morrow. They will all join the Providence Bruins on Monday in North Smithfield, R.I. The Bruins have trimmed 15 players from their 51-player camp roster. “We’re not there yet, where we’re close to our whole team,” Julien said.