BRIGHTON, Mass – The key word was “energy” for Austin Czarnik in his return to the Boston after spending the last few weeks getting his game squared away in Providence.
Czarnik hasn’t played an NHL game since the home loss to Toronto Feb. 4 that eventually got Claude Julien fired. He also battled an upper body injury before returning to play the past five games with the P-Bruins.
He’ll step back into the third-line center spot tonight at home against the Detroit Red Wings. Czarnik replaces Ryan Spooner (concussion), with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes on his wings, and is looking to have his good legs and optimal energy level to create chances with his aggressive fore-checking style.
“It’s unfortunate that Spooner is injured, but now it’s my chance to get back into the lineup and see what I can do to help us get a win,” said Czarnik. “It’s about keeping on [my game] and working hard. [I’ve got to] work on the fore-check and being an energy guy. At times maybe I didn’t have the energy that I needed to so I’m going to try to focus on that even more and get it into my game more.”
Czarnik was a point-per-game player with a goal and five points in those five games in Providence and hopes to elevate his game in the NHL after posting five goals and 13 points in 47 games, along with a minus-10 rating, in the first half of the season.
He certainly wasn’t bad in his first NHL go-round before being sent to Providence, but Bruce Cassidy said Czarnik needs to play with a “high motor” all the time if the 5-foot-9, 167-pounder is going to bring some of his AHL effectiveness to the NHL.
“When he’s playing his game he’s got good energy, he’s on the puck and he’s creating some turnovers with his foot-speed and his stick and his hockey IQ,” said Cassidy, who said that Czarnik will play in all situations, including penalty kill and power play. “He and Vatrano certainly have some good chemistry and he’s been good in situational hockey for us.
“He’s going to get to play in all situations, so hopefully he’s going to respond. He’s been up here before so he should know what to expect in that regard. As a smaller guy, he’s had to learn what he can get away with and what he can’t, so this time we’re going to find out what he’s learned in that area. He thinks the game well and it has to be one of his best assets, that and a high motor. We’ve talked about that. If he’s not playing with a high motor, then his effectiveness will decrease. Those are the things we’re looking for.”
If anybody should benefit from Cassidy’s up-tempo and aggressive style, it should be Czarnik. He’ll get his chance to show that with Spooner out indefinitely with a concussion suffered on Monday night.