BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins' surge to No. 1 in the Eastern Conference is linked to the reemergence of their third line.
Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson have built chemistry and the three compose arguably one of the best third lines in the league.
Soderberg has nine points in the last 10 games, Kelly has five points in the last 10 games and Eriksson has five points in his last six games.
"We're a great line and we just want to keep that going," Soderberg said. "Since I started to play center, it's quite obvious I'm creating more offense. I can still play the wing, but I prefer center."
It took a little bit of time, a few injuries, and a few tweaks for coach Claude Julien to find the right trio.
At the start of the season, Eriksson played on the team's second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, while Reilly Smith played with Kelly and Soderberg. After Eriksson suffered his first of two concussions early in the season, Smith replaced him on the second line and that trio quickly had success.
When Eriksson returned, Julien decided it would be best to ease the veteran winger back into the lineup by putting him on the third line. The coach also moved Soderberg to the middle more frequently and had Kelly playing the other side.
Suddenly, the entire lineup had harmony and now the Bruins are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak.
When Soderberg registers a point, the Bruins are 23-3-3 this season. He's finally showing the skating ability, strength and production the Bruins were hoping for.
Julien says he sees Soderberg is settling into a good rhythm.
"His line is one of the reasons that he's been doing really good," Julien said. "Kells has come in and done a good job on that left wing, but Loui, as we're all seeing, is just playing much better hockey since that injury. So that in itself makes for a better line, and like I said the other day, I think in Carl's situation he loves to skate, so by putting him in center he's been able to cover a lot of ice and that seems to suit him better."
Top-line winger Milan Lucic has been impressed with the play of the third line, especially Soderberg.
"It's real good," Lucic said. "You can see his confidence coming in and he's using his big body and he's found his skating game in the NHL, which wasn't really there for him when he first came here, but you can see the commitment and the time he put in to make sure he can contribute to this team this year and you can see him starting to get rewarded for that."
Like Soderberg, Eriksson is coming into his own. Limited by a pair of concussions earlier this season, he started to show signs before the Olympics, where he won a silver medal for Sweden. Since being back with Boston he's playing well.
"To me, Loui has been really a good player and we're starting to see the player that he is and that's encouraging," Julien said. "That line has been good overall, but Carl's a big body that can skate well and he's strong on the puck and he does make things happen."
The third line has become an important part of Boston's success this season. They need that kind of depth to continue to enjoy another deep run through the postseason this spring.