ANAHEIM — David Krejci inched closer to his much-anticipated return Wednesday, but the desired measurement proved to be slightly off. It appears the veteran center won’t rejoin the Bruins’ lineup until Thursday night in Los Angeles.
“Doing much better,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, shortly after his squad’s workout in preparation of meeting the Ducks at the Honda Center. “It looks like [Thursday] will be a good target date for him. It’ll be a game-time decision.”
Krejci played in the first six games of the season, averaged a point per game (1-5—6), then moved to the sidelines following his 1-1—2 effort vs. the Canucks Oct. 19.
The Bruins won’t divulge his injury, but it’s believed the Czech pivot has been dealing with a wonky back.
Krejci, 31, is the club’s highest paid roster member at $7.25 million per season (through 2020-21) and was slated to anchor a No. 2 line with rookie Jake DeBrusk on his left and David Pastrnak on his right. But because of a confluence of injuries, including one to No. 1 pivot Patrice Bergeron for the first five games this season, all lineup planning has been ice scraped underneath the Zamboni.
The game here was Krecji’s 11th straight DNP. The Bruins went 3-3-4 in the previous 10, virtually in lockstep with the overall 6-6-4 record they took into the matchcup with the Ducks.
Marchand, Bjork out
Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork, neither of whom made the trip west, have been ruled out of the matchup against the Kings.
“For the immediate short term,” said Cassidy, who has yet to coach his preferred roster this season, “Krech would be the only one probable for [LA].”
Marchand, hobbled Nov. 4 vs. the Capitals, had missed two games prior to the setback in the weekend home-and-home with the Leafs. Bjork took a heavy hit in open ice Saturday night at the Garden, hammered to the ice by 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound Matt Martin, the ex-Islander hitman. The Bruins have not detailed Bjork’s injury. He was fortunate not to have been knocked cold.
Cehlarik moves up
With Marchand hors de combat, recent call-up Peter Cehlarik was Cassidy’s pick to begin the night at left wing on the No. 1 line with Bergeron and Pastrnak.
“He’s going to start with Bergy and Pasta,” said Cassidy. “We’ve got some moving parts there. We’ll start with Peter and see how it plays out. He’s a puck-protection guy. He’s a big body. Bergy plays that game with Marshy. They are different sizes, but the same kind of style. I think he will complement there. He’ll get to the net, big body, and will help recover pucks.”
Cehlarik only recently rejoined the AHL Providence lineup after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.
DeBrusk, assigned to the press box for Saturday night’s matchup vs. the Leafs, was back in the lineup.
Tuukka Rask, 3-6-2 this season with a .901 save percentage, was Cassidy’s choice for goal. Backup Anton Khudobin, 3-0-2 and .923, will get the call vs. the Kings.
Paul Postma was back in with the defensive six, spelling Rob O’Gara.
Milestone for Vermette
Veteran pivot Antoine Vermette suited up for his 1,000 career game, with the Ducks his fifth NHL franchise in a career he began with Ottawa in 2003.
Vermette, 35, grew up near Quebec City and is close pals with Bergeron, 32, also born and raised in Quebec City. Two of the game’s premier faceoff men, they often skate together, and duel at the circle, during summer practices.
“We’re good friends, and it’s definitely a big milestone for him,”said Bergeron, who is now 89 games away from the 1,000-game threshold. “I am happy. I guess it’s good timing that we’re playing against each other for that game--pretty special for him and I am happy for him.”
In the summer, Bergeron’s tete-a-tete battles at the circle with Vermette occur during scrimmages.
“He’s really strong,” said Bergeron. “It’s definitely a good test in the summer, a good challenge. He is pretty quick. Really strong on his stick. I want to think I am similar to that. We all have our tendencies and whatnot, but I’d say we are pretty similar.’”
Entering the game, Vermette ranked No. 4 in the league this season in playoff wins (216) and had by far the best win rate at 63.9 percent. Bergeron, sidelined for the first two weeks of the season, ranked T31 for wins (143) and had a 56.5 success rate at the dot.
A subdued Noel Acciari worked out in the morning practice, after missing Tuesday’s workout to be in Michigan to attend funeral services for Drew Brown, his close pal and teammate for two seasons at Providence.
“A tough kid, touched a lot of people with his smile,” said Acciari, remembering his friend. “Never complained. All the respect that everyone had for him . . . he will be missed. It’s tough for his family right now, but they’re a tough group.”
Brown, 25, died over the weekend, some three year after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.