Czarnik's emergence allows Bruins to utilize centers at wing on top two lines


Czarnik's emergence allows Bruins to utilize centers at wing on top two lines

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' roster is starting to take shape with just over a week to go before the start of the regular season. Obviously there still could be a last-minute injury or two, but it appears Claude Julien is honing in on his top-6 forwards to start the season.

Julien and the coaching staff have been looking at David Pastrnak as the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, a line that could be deadly at the offensive end with their skill level and dogged puck-hunting. Surprisingly, the Bruins are also looking at David Krejci centering a veritable line of centers between Ryan Spooner on the left and David Backes on the right.

It’s along the same philosophical line as a huge group of centers comprising the forward lines for Team Canada, which worked out pretty well when some of them moved off the middle and over to the wing.

“These are all things that we’re discovering here, and that will be giving us options moving forward,” said Julien, who had to improvise a little bit when the B’s lost Frank Vatrano for three months to a foot injury. “We’re trying stuff to see different people at different positions, so when we make the final decisions we’ve explored every option.

“We just went through it at the World Cup with a lot of centers playing wing. It was great for faceoffs; one gets kicked out and the other one goes in. They adapted well and it just gave us more flexibility. It’s hard to replace a centerman, but it’s much easier to replace a winger. When you’ve got them on the wing and something happens to somebody playing down the middle, then you’ve got somebody to replace them, and feel a lot more comfortable about that. For us, we like our players to be versatile and play different positions when asked to.”

It’s all still being toyed with at the hockey laboratory on Causeway Street with two exhibition games remaining. But one of the reasons it's possible is the emergence of rookie Austin Czarnik as a legitimate candidate for the third-line center position.

“There are different things that we want to look at,” said Julien, who said the B’s may even tinker with moving Czarnik to wing in the preseason after he played strictly center while posting 20 goals and 61 points in Providence last season. “Obviously Austin has had a really great camp, so we want to make sure you cover all your options.

"Frankie Vatrano is hurt, so that’s a winger we thought would make some significant strides this year. Even when he comes back, he’ll be three months behind it not even more. So it’s one of those situations where we need to try different things here, and give guys that deserve to make the team an opportunity to make the team. We need to find space and make room for [those players] to play in those situations that’s going to make them the best player possible.”

While Czarnik slowed down toward the end of a strong training camp last season, the 23-year-old scored his second goal of the preseason in Tuesday night’s loss to Montreal while showing off his speed, dogged puck pursuit and excellent work ethic as an undersized center that will need to overcompensate at the NHL level.

If nothing else, it’s giving Julien and the B’s coaching staff options as they get down to decision time.

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.

Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.

“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”

Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.

Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.

Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.


Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

File photo

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.

*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.

*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.

*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.

*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.

*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.

*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.