BRIGHTON, Mass. – It wasn’t a smooth, seamless return for Frank Vatrano to game action after missing all of training camp and the first two-plus months of the NHL regular season.
But the 22-year-old natural- born scorer did manage to light the lamp for the Providence Bruins in a 3-2 win over Bridgeport in his first game back from foot surgery on Friday night. It was a vintage Vatrano strike: a lightning quick release and shot to the top corner on a partial breakaway.
Vatrano finished with a couple of shots on net and a lot of rust shaken off after having not played a competitive game since last April at the IIHF World Championships and the initial plan was to bring the 22-year-old along at his own pace. The plan may be altered now with the news that David Pastrnak is out for at least a couple of games following an elbow procedure. Now the B’s are down both Pastrnak and Matt Beleskey up front from an already thin skill group.
“He scored a goal, but as usual it’s not the three months he’s missed as much as the seven or eight months that he hasn’t played,” said Claude Julien. “You’ve got to allow him to find his game a little bit because you can skate all you want, but it’s not game-type situations. Last night, I’m sure after the game he was exhausted. The first two periods I think was a little bit more of a struggle, and then he seemed to get a little bit better in the third. So that’s an improvement.
“Hopefully we’re in a position to give him an opportunity to find his game, but with what’s going on right now [with injuries] we don’t know what we’re going to end up doing. He’s got to be available for us to use if we need him.”
Vatrano scored eight goals in 39 games for the Black and Gold last season and scored a combined 44 goals between Boston and Providence in a standout first pro season that set him on a path for a top-six role in Boston this season prior to injury.