David Krejci left Wednesday’s practice midway through, and it seems the veteran center, who has had a rough go of it healthwise, may not be ready to face Tampa on Thursday at TD Garden.
“Tomorrow we’ll see how he is,” coach Bruce Cassidy said after the team practiced in Brighton. “I’d put him as day-to-day.”
As such, the Bruins (5-1-0) are at risk of starting a tough stretch without their No. 2 center. After Thursday’s date with the Lightning (3-2-1), they have a home-away series with the Maple Leafs, beginning Saturday in Toronto and returning Tuesday to Boston. After those Atlantic Division games, the Bruins host the Blues next Saturday in a Stanley Cup Final rematch. That starts a back-to-back that takes them to New York to face the Rangers the following evening.
Krejci, who skated two shifts in the preseason because of an undisclosed lower body ailment, departed Monday’s win over the Ducks after seven shifts and 4:43 of ice time. This time the injury is listed as “upper body,” and he was likely felled by a cross-check from Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf in the first period. Cassidy said he hoped Tuesday’s off day would help Krejci recover.
Once the 33-year-old pivot left Wednesday’s practice, the Bruins’ middle lines were jumbled at center and right wing. Charlie Coyle took Krejci’s spot at No. 2 center, and Brett Ritchie moved up to play right wing. Karson Kuhlman, who had been Krejci’s right-hand man, moved down to No. 3, with Par Lindholm at center and David Backes working in. The first and fourth lines remained the same: Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak up top, and Joakim Nordstrom-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner at the bottom of the lineup.
The Jake Debrusk-Krejci-Kuhlman line is stuck on zero goals through six games, though both DeBrusk and Kuhlman saw goals disallowed on close calls last Thursday in Colorado. Boston’s top line has scored 11 of the team’s 16 goals.
Krejci dealt with numerous injuries in recent years, including a recovery from hip surgery, but last year he was fully healthy. He played in all but one game — resting in Game No. 81 along with several veterans — and tied his career high in points (73).
Lighting it up
The Lightning have a new look this year: they’re loading up.
Coach Jon Cooper combined captain Steven Stamkos with returning Art Ross winner Nikita Kucherov and 23-year-old standout Brayden Point, giving one trio three of the league’s top 13 returning scorers.
They’ve been together since Point, who sat out the first three games of the season recovering from hip surgery, returned. They combined for 11 points in their first game as a starting trio, a 7-3 win over the Leafs last Thursday.
Stamkos, shifting from center to wing, has eight points in six games (4-4—8). Kucherov has scored three times on eight shots (3-5—8). Point has a comparatively pedestrian 2-1—3 line in three games. They have nine of the Lightning’s 23 goals.
“They’ve got good players there,” Cassidy said, “however they mix ’em up. Their top six is excellent, their third line has lots of speed, they’re younger, [Mathieu] Joseph, [Anthony] Cirelli, and can really motor.”
Because of that kind of power, Cassidy wasn’t pretending it was just another game on the schedule. The Lightning, who tied the NHL record of 62 wins last year, KO’d the Bruins in the second round in 2018. They were on another Round 2 collision course with Boston last year, until Columbus shocked them in a first-round sweep.
“Definitely a measuring-stick game for us,” Cassidy said of the Bolts, who added veterans Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon in the offseason. “They’ve been at the top of the division now for a few years. We look at it as certainly a bigger challenge than a lot of other nights. Rivalry? I’d say it’s trending that way. I don’t think it’s our top one, but it’s becoming one. When you have good games that go back and forth, that’s how the rivalry starts.”
When discussing Boston’s top rivals, Cassidy mentions Toronto first.
“I would like to think we’ll be better for 60 minutes over the next three games,” he said, “just because of what’s at stake.”
No return set for Miller
Defenseman Kevan Miller, who had a pair of knee surgeries in the spring, is skating on his own, but a return date is not clear. “So far so good,” Cassidy said. “He’s working hard on the drills he’s been getting.” . . . Tampa’s Cooper visited the Boston College men’s team, a speaking engagement of which Shattenkirk — a proud son of BU — likely disapproved.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports