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Reilly Smith making quick progress with Bruins

SUNRISE, Fla. — When the Bruins made their blockbuster trade with the Stars on July 4, Loui Eriksson appeared to be the only top-six forward they were getting in return. Five games into the season, Reilly Smith would beg to differ.

While the move is probably viewed more as a Brad Marchand [1] demotion than a Smith promotion, Claude Julien [2] has moved Marchand to the third line and Smith up to Patrice Bergeron [3]‘s line in the third period Saturday against Columbus, giving the 22-year-old a lot more responsibility in the process. Julien has trusted Smith with some important minutes the last two games, most notably when Smith and Bergeron’s line played against Pavel Datsyuk [4]‘s line on Monday. The lines were unchanged Wednesday, meaning you can expect Smith to stick on the second line for at least another game.

“He’s a young player, and what I see in this player is he seems to be getting better all the time with confidence,” Julien said Wednesday of Smith. “You see his skill level is pretty good. His hockey sense and his vision is also pretty good. I think we’re going to discover that this guy’s only going to get better as he progresses and gets more experience.

“I think he’s got the ability to possibly be a guy that can move up there, whether it’s permanently or at times. He’s got that skill level. No matter what, he’s a good player and I like the way he plays. He’s conscientious and very reliable for a player that has more or less limited experience in this league.”

The move also reunites Smith with Eriksson, with whom he played last season in Dallas, as the two were linemates for a couple of weeks last season. In fact, Eriksson assisted Smith’s first career goal. Smith returned the favor Saturday in Columbus, when, in his first period playing with him this season, he assisted Eriksson’s first goal as a Bruin.

Smith recalls his time as Eriksson’s linemate last season fondly, saying that Eriksson’s a very easy linemate to have. It hasn’t been perfect so far — Smith should have broken up Datsyuk’s pass to Henrik Zetterberg [5] on Detroit’s first goal Saturday, but the offensive results have been, as Eriksson has scored in both games. Though the Bruins probably don’t have long-term designs of Marchand being a third-line player, the Smith-Eriksson combo is at least something they know can work for them.

“They know each other well,” Julien said. “It’s obvious that they’ve been together before and that they know each other a little bit better than we know them.”