Eriksson "Definitely" In Against Dallas; Boychuk Likely to Return
BOSTON, MA - Loui Eriksson will be in the Bruins lineup tonight at TD Garden when he faces his former team, the Dallas Stars. It marks his first game back since suffering a concussion on the illegal hit to the head by John Scott in Buffalo on October 23.
Eriksson missed five games as a result. He's had a steady recovery, with no setbacks, after a couple of tough days immediately after the hit. On Monday, he passed the final testing that deems him cleared to play.
On the back end, the Bruins will likely see Johnny Boychuck return to game action. He stayed back in Boston when the B's traveled to Long Island to play the Islanders on Saturday night.
He's been recovering from what he labeled "back issues" after awkwardly crashing into the boards in the second period against Anaheim at TD Garden on October 31 (he left the game
and did not return). When he had gotten up after the crash, there was a pain down his back, causing him to not put any pressure on his right foot.
He felt fine when he battled in practice on Monday (his first skate back) and this morning, he was feeling 100 percent.
"Yeah their status is good. So Loui will definitely be in and more than likely Johnny as well," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien told media following the team's pregame skate at the Garden.
"Just take the one game off and make sure you’re 100% because I wasn’t," said Boychuk, of the precaution taken, when he didn't travel to New York.
"And just that one game off helped recover, what could have been, if I got hit again, maybe five games so it was a smart decision and we made it together as a group here and it’s just going to be nice to hopefully get back on the ice today."
Eriksson Makes Steady Return
Having tackled all of the physical hurdles that come with suffering a concussion, sometimes the mental part is the toughest for players, getting right back into battling in game situation.
Eriksson doesn't think he'll encounter any such issues.
"I don’t think I will think that much about it when I go out," the winger said following his fifth straight day skating. "I’m just going to do the things I’m good at and not think about what happened the last game I played."
"Those things happen and it’s not fun that it happened. I’m just happy that I’m feeling good right now and it’s been a really good recovery."
His chemistry was beginning to take an upswing with Bergeron, and the duo makes a fierce forechecking, two-way unit. Having Eriksson back could also mean an uptick in Brad Marchand's play.
"Yeah I’m going to do everything I can to help the guys win the game and I think we’re going to start off today with a good game. We’re going to be home for a couple weeks now and I think if we get a good start today we can just build on that."
Eriksson's return couldn't have come at a better time. Drafted by Dallas 33rd overall in 2003 (Bergeron was drafted by the B's at No. 45), he spent seven seasons with the Stars before the July 4 blockbuster trade.
"For sure I had a lot of good memories from Dallas when I played there; I had been in Dallas for eight years and yeah, you get used to everything there, of course you miss some things there."
"But it’s a nice to come here; it’s a really nice city to play in and it’s kind of similar to where I’m from in Sweden so I really like it here. And the team is really good too, so I like it here."
Smith Gets His Moment, Too
While Eriksson was the key component in the trade, Smith has been a surprise to some, in the fact that he's fit in with the Bruins style so well and brought a game that blends speed with grit.
While his offensive contribution has dipped point-wise after putting up a goal and five assists in his first eight games, there's no better tonight to show his impact on the scoresheet than tonight against his former team.
Smith began his still young NHL career in a Stars uniform after being drafted by the team in 2009.
"I have a lot of great memories there, a lot of good friendships. Still talk to a lot of the guys still now," said Smith. "It will be weird to play against them, but as soon as the whistle blows and the game starts, then everything’s just hockey."
While Dallas will always be the team that gave him his start, he's been awarded an opportunity to become a key component on a Boston squad shooting not just for the postseason.
"There’s definitely a bigger onus on winning; they have higher standards here. I remember going to Dallas, the goal was to make the playoffs every year, we’re here just to win the Stanley Cup so that’s one of the biggest differences that I’ve noticed coming to this organization."
He's also noticed the Bruins' characteristic "no-quit" attitude that's a part of their identity.
"That’s one of the big differences from most of the teams that I’ve played on actually in the last few years," said Smith. "I’m kind of used to being the team in the lead until the third period and then stuff kind of turns around the opposite way."
"So it’s good having a team that’s this resilient and never gives up. It’s one thing that I’ve noticed pretty much from the get-go here."
With Eriksson's return to the lineup, it appears Julien will be putting Brad Marchand back on the line with Bergeron, the way the trio began the season. Marchand's only goal so far in 2013-14 came in just Game No. 2.
Reilly Smith had played on Bergeron's left side since the game on October 17 against the Florida Panthers, and will now be back with center Chris Kelly.
Carl Soderberg had been injured to start the season, when Smith and Kelly were together, so tonight will mark their first game of the regular season that the Soderberg-Kelly-Smith line will be playing with each other.
The trio had started forming chemistry towards the end of the preseason, but Soderberg's injury had halted that progress.
"You’re trying to get some stability with your lines; a little bit of it anyways. That’s not always easy – you need guys to play well in their positions and their spots," said Julien.
"So that line was good for us I thought in the preseason and it gave us some hope that our third line would be a little bit more productive than it had been the year before. So we’ll see where that takes us and reuniting those three guys."
Boston Projected Lineup
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson
Carl Soderberg-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dougie Hamilton-Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Healthy Scratches: Jordan Caron, Matt Bartkowski
Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Chad Johnson
Dallas Projected Lineup
Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin
Ray Whitney-Cody Eakin-Alex Chiasson
Rich Peverley-Vernon Fiddler-Erik Cole
Antoine Roussel-Shawn Horcoff-Ryan Garbutt
Brenden Dillon-Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley-Sergei Gonchar
Alex Goligoski-Jordie Benn
Starter: Kari Lehtonen // Backup: Dan Ellis