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Thursday, July 24, 2014
Julien has top-line hopes for Eriksson

By Joe McDonald

BOSTON -- After Jarome Iginla signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche at the start of the free-agent period on July 1, the Bruins suddenly had a vacancy at right wing on their top line.

General manager Peter Chiarelli quickly endorsed Loui Eriksson for that role to play alongside center David Krejci and left wing Milan Lucic. Eriksson brings a different skill set than Iginla did, but Chiarelli is convinced Eriksson can handle it.

During a Thursday afternoon conference to introduce the Bruins’ newest assistant coach, Joe Sacco, head coach Claude Julien also said he believes Eriksson can perform on the top line.

“Loui Eriksson is a player that can be even better than he was last year,” Julien said. “I think we started seeing that at the end of the year, and he could be a replacement for Jarome as a possibility.

“But at the same time, Chris Kelly will be coming back, so are we going to look for somebody to be a third-liner, or are we going to look for somebody who’s going to be replacing Iggy? There are a couple of things here that we have to resolve, but at the same time, we do have some young players in Providence that are going to deserve a look. So, when training camp starts, I think a lot of those decisions will probably be taking place.”

Kelly suffered a herniated disk in the fourth-to-last-game of the regular season at Minnesota. He did not play in the playoffs and eventually had offseason back surgery. He’s expected to be healthy for the start of training camp Sept. 18.

Kelly has the ability to play both center and the wing. For the majority of last season, Boston’s third line consisted of Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Eriksson.

After Iginla’s departure, Chiarelli also said he’s happy with the team’s second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith, so it’s likely that trio will remain the same. The Bruins’ energy line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton no longer exists, since Thornton signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

Heading into camp, the Bruins have six players -- Ryan Spooner, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Bobby Robins, Alexander Khokhlachev and David Pastrnak -- for two forward positions.

Overall, the salary-cap-challenged Bruins have been relatively quiet this offseason, but Julien believes the organization will be ready for the 2014-2015 season.

“Well, right now I think there’s still some time and there’s still some things that can be done and there’s no doubt we’re still working on a few things,” Julien said. “But nonetheless, we don’t feel like we're in a real tough situation.”