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First line focused on burying chances 01.22.13 at 5:44 pm ET
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Nathan Horton has had plenty of scoring opportunities. (AP)

WILMINGTON — There were few questions surrounding the Bruins (less than other teams, anyway) entering the season, but one of them surrounded the first line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. So far the answers have been pretty convincing.

The trio hadn’t played together since Horton went down with a concussion last season on a hit from Flyers forward Tom Sestito on Jan. 22, exactly a year ago. With Horton coming off two straight season-ending concussions and Lucic not playing during the lockout, it was easy to question how the Krejci trio would fare.

Nobody would have been surprised if the two power forwards came out sluggish as they got their legs back, but it’s been the opposite. The whole line has been flying, while Horton and Lucic have been their usual physical selves. Claude Julien sang their praises after Monday’s win over the Jets, but Krejci and Lucic said Tuesday that though they’re happy with their start, they haven’t buried their chances.

“It’s been basically a year going back to when Nathan got hurt in Philadelphia, since we played together in a threesome, and it’s obviously great that we’ve been able to click as well as we have, but in saying that, we’ve only been able to produce one goal,” Lucic said. “A big thing in the NHL is you’ve got to push yourself to get results. Right now it’s coming, but I think we definitely need to keep going until we get those results.”

Lucic was a wrecking ball on Monday (10 hits), while Horton and Krejci sniffed around several scoring opportunities, one of which came on their first shift when Krejci’s backhand bid was denied by Ondrej Pavelec.

“We had one right away the first shift,” Krejci said. “Those are the worst, on the first shift and you don’t score when you have a great chance. It’s not really a good feeling, but I think our game’s getting back to where we’d like it to be. The main thing for us is to keep our feet moving, with the puck or without the puck.”

Though Krejci has probably been the line’s best player through three games, the first line has undoubtedly been boosted by the return of Horton. The 27-year-old was cleared for contact over the summer and would have been ready for the start of the season had it began in October, and despite choosing not to play anywhere during the lockout, he clearly spent the time well. He looks bigger and stronger, while showing the skill that made him the third overall pick back in 2003.

His absence was felt when he went down last season. With Horton in the lineup, Lucic scored 17 goals in 45 games, while Krejci had 27 assists in 43 games. Without Horton, Lucic had just nine goals and Krejci had 14 assists in 43 games (including the playoffs).

With Horton back, the duo of he and Lucic has skated hard and used their big bodies (they stand at 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3, respectively, and both weigh over 225 pounds) to wear down opposing top lines and create scoring opportunity.

“That’s how they get in the game, those two, with their physical play,” Krejci said. “I think they’ve done a pretty good job at it, and as a line I think we’ve created so many chances.

Said Lucic: “I think if you look at when I’ve been most successful in my career, it’s been when it’s been straight-line hockey. I’ve been able to do that the last two games, and I need to continue doing that. It’s no secret it makes me more successful than any other way of playing.

“If I’m trying to stick-handle and make moves and all that type of stuff, it doesn’t work as well. Keeping it simple works the best for my game and it has since my junior days, so why change now?”

The line has not been on the ice for a goal against this season. That’s a positive, but at the end of the day, its members know they should be on the ice for quite a few Bruins’ goals.

“I think the chemistry’s getting back there,” Krejci said of the line’s work. “Too bad we didn’t score [Monday]. We had so many chances, but the good thing is that we’re getting chances, we keep our feet moving and that’s a good sign. We’re the top line, so everyone expects for us to produce. We’re going to have to do that.”

Read More: David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton,
Nathan Horton ‘definitely’ could have started season in October 01.10.13 at 11:56 am ET
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Nathan Horton

WILMINGTON — After skating with his teammates for the first time since suffering a concussion last January, Bruins forward Nathan Horton he is 100-percent healthy and ready to go about business as usual throughout the upcoming training camp and 48-game season. His teammates certainly like what they saw on Thursday.

“He’s huge, eh?” Tyler Seguin quipped when asked about the power forward.

Indeed, the Bruins missed Horton’s services since he suffered his second concussion in as many seasons on a Jan. 22 hit from Flyers forward Tom Sestito. Teamed with Milan Lucic, Horton helped give the Bruins first line a bruising duo with a scoring threat, but head injuries have cost him time in the Bruins’ lineup.

Horton began skating by himself after suffering the concussion on the Sestito hit but had a setback and was eventually shut down before the playoffs last season. He said after Thursday’s informal practice with teammates that things have gone smoothly since.

“Near the end of the [season] I was starting to feel better, but all summer I never had any issues with all my running and skating,” Horton said. “I never had a setback, and I feel great. I’m pretty happy about that. It’s a tough thing to go through, but it’s in the past now and I’m looking forward to getting back and being around the guys yet and having some fun.”

Horton spent the lockout skating and working out in Florida. He chose against pursuing European options during the work stoppage, though he said he would have been healthy to start the season in October had it began on time.

“Oh definitely,” Horton said. “I was 100 percent back then. It seems so long ago, but more time obviously helped me. I was fine back then [though].”

A free agent at season’s end, Horton also suffered a concussion in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals on a hit from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome. He had played an integral role in the Bruins’ run to the finals up until that hit, as he scored two game-winning goals in overtime in the first round against the Canadiens (including the series-clincher in Game 7) and scored one of the biggest goals in team history by tallying the only score in the Bruins’ 1-0 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning.

That postseason remains Horton’s only taste of the playoffs, as he never saw the postseason in Florida and missed last year’s first-round exit against the Capitals, something that weighed on him.

“I got one shot of it [in 2011],” he said when asked about missing last season’s playoffs. “You get one taste and you just want to keep going. I didn’t get to do that and it’s pretty disappointing. It was a tough year for me, and I’m just happy to be back. I want to start off right here and keep moving forward.”

Despite now having a history of head injuries, Horton said he isn’t planning on changing his approach at all.

“The truth is I really haven’t even thought about it,” he said. “I’m not even worried about my head, I’m not worried about being in contact or getting in a fight or anything like that. It’s really in the back of my [mind]. I’m looking to the future and I haven’t thought about it. I feel better than I have in a long, long time and that’s it. I’m just happy that I feel good and it’s not even on my mind.”

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Nathan Horton skating with Bruins teammates at 9:47 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Forward Nathan Horton was among those in attendance as Bruins players held an informal practice at Ristuccia Arena on Thursday. Other newcomers included Rich Peverley, Daniel Paille and defenseman Aaron Johnson.

Horton, who saw each of his last two seasons end early due to concussions, was cleared for contact over the summer but elected against playing anywhere during the lockout. Horton skated in Florida during the 113-day stoppage.

General manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien were also in attendance. Players had previously been skating at Boston University during the lockout.

Read More: Daniel Paille, Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley,
Nathan Horton has been skating, hopes to join Bruins teammates on ice in coming days 01.08.13 at 5:46 pm ET
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Nathan Horton

According to agent Paul Krepelka, Bruins forward Nathan Horton will return to Boston “in the next few days” with the hope of potentially skating with his teammates prior to training camp.

Horton, who has seen each of his last two seasons end early due to concussions and was limited to 46 games in the season, was cleared for contact over the summer and has been skating in Florida. He decided in September that he would not play competitively during the lockout.

“He is healthy and ready to start the season,” Krepelka reiterated in an email to WEEI.com.

Bruins players have been holding private practices with other local NHLers, with Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ference, Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Gregory Campbell, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Tuukka Rask the regulars of late. Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk, both of whom returned from Europe recently, joined their teammates on Tuesday.

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Nathan Horton won’t play hockey during lockout 09.21.12 at 10:28 am ET
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Nathan Horton

While Bruins players are quickly finding places to play during the lockout, at least one player won’t be going anywhere. Nathan Horton, who has been shut down in each of the last two seasons due to concussions but was cleared for contact over the summer, will not play hockey during the lockout, Horton’s agent told WEEI.com on Friday.

Agent Paul Krepelka said that Horton is “doing well” and that his decision to not play hockey during the lockout “has nothing to do with his health. Just his personal choice.”

Horton, 27, did not play again last season after suffering his second concussion in seven months in a 6-5 win over the Flyers on Jan. 22. In 46 games last season, the right wing scored 17 goals and added 15 assists for 32 points. Horton also saw his 2010-11 season end early when he suffered a concussion on a hit from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Horton had been in Florida this summer, but recently came back to Boston. He’s expected to stick around until things pick up with the NHL.

Thus far, David Krejci and Andrew Ference (Czech Extraliga) as well as Tyler Seguin (Swiss Elite League) have already made agreements to play overseas during the lockout. Dennis Seidenberg is expected to eventually go to Germany to play with his brother Yannic Seidenberg in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

Read More: David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin,
Bruins offer injury updates on Nathan Horton, Adam McQuaid, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin 07.24.12 at 2:58 pm ET
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Nathan Horton

Speaking at Claude Julien‘s press conference Tuesday, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli gave updates on the Bruins who finished last season with injuries. The most notable update regarded the status of Nathan Horton, who has been knocked out of the last two seasons with concussions.

“Nathan Horton has been cleared for contact and by all accounts from our medical staff will be ready to play when it comes time to play,” Chiarelli said.

Chiarelli added that Patrice Bergeron‘s oblique injury is “completely healed” and that the team expects Adam McQuaid (concussion) and Tyler Seguin (hand surgery) to be god for training camp in September.

“Adam McQuaid has been completely cleared,” he said. “Seguin is on his road to recovery in his initial timeframe. It may be sooner than that.”

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Now healthy, Milan Lucic has to step up this postseason with Nathan Horton out 04.11.12 at 2:13 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — It became official Wednesday that David Krejci and Milan Lucic will not play with Nathan Horton this postseason, but could the Bruins’ first (depending on who you ask) line be even better than it was a season ago?

Milan Lucic has to replace what the Bruins will be missing with Nathan Horton. (AP)

It’s a tough act to follow, to be certain. Krejci led all postseason players with 12 goals and 23 points, while Horton’s eight goals tied for third on the team.

The line will obviously be different in that Rich Peverley will be skating in Horton’s place as he did in Games 3-7 of the Cup finals, but the biggest difference should be Lucic.

After leading the team with 30 goals in the regular season last year, Lucic struggled through a sinus infection and, later, a broken toe. He finished the playoffs with 12 points (five goals, seven assists), which tied for eighth on the team. The Bruins won the Cup, and he assisted two of Horton’s overtime goals against the Canadiens (including the series-clinching Game 7 tally), but Lucic didn’t look right. People wondered whether he was playing through pain.

As it turned out, he was. He’d had the sinus infection throughout the postseason, and he had his big toe shattered by a Tyler Seguin slap shot in practice between Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.

Now, Lucic is healthy, and he’s ready to not only produce more offensively, but help in the other areas where Horton will be missed. When Horton is on that line, it’s a trio that features two big power forwards, making it a very physical and tough group to deal with. Peverley adds speed, but the extra bruising play will have to be provided by Lucic.

“I think I definitely have to play physical no matter what, but [Horton] definitely makes it easier, I’m not going to lie, because he is a big body and he’s got such great speed and we all know about his scoring touch,” Lucic said. “For myself, I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well the last 10 games, and using my body well all season long and I’ve been skating well. Being physical is a big part of my game, and I have to bring that in the playoffs.”

There’s no positive way of spinning of the loss of Horton, but Lucic can recognize that the situation heading into the postseason will be easier than it was the last time the B’s last Horton. Krejci had centered Lucic and Horton for the vast majority of the season, and the trio had built up a pretty strong rapport.

One Aaron Rome hit later, Krejci and Lucic found themselves with a new linemate while still four victories away from the Stanley Cup. There was no time for adjustment then, but they now have experience with Peverley based on the Cup finals and recent weeks.

“Yeah it does, definitely,” Lucic said when asked whether the familiarity with Peverley makes it easier this time around. “You go from playing a whole year with the exact same two guys, and then the last four games, Peverley jumps in the mix. This time, we’ve definitely played a lot more games together, and in these last couple of days of practice have gotten the feel of each other a lot more having practiced with each other. We’re excited for this series to get going, and we’re excited to get back into playoff mode. We want to be a big part of our team moving forward and having success.”

Peverley returned from a knee injury on March 25 and had four points (two goals, two assists), over the final eight games of the regular season. He brings a different skill set with a speedier game, but he showed he was capable of performing in the playoffs last season by matching Lucic’s 12 points despite playing most of the playoffs on the third line.

Ultimately, the Bruins are better with Nathan Horton without him, but the Krejci line should still be poised for success without him. Peverley had four points in five games in place of Horton last June, and Krejci has been known to elevate his game in the playoffs. At the end of the day, though, don’t be surprised if Lucic ends up being the real difference on that line this year. He wasn’t healthy enough to be a consistent force in the playoffs like Horton was a season ago, but there are plenty of reasons to believe he could be this time around.

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton
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