Impending return for DeBrusk means B's need to make a roster decision


Impending return for DeBrusk means B's need to make a roster decision

NASHVILLE – Jake DeBrusk isn’t going to return to game action on the two-game Bruins road trip, but the 21-year-old is on the verge of getting back into the lineup and giving Boston their full and complete group of forwards.

DeBrusk (upper body) took part in Monday’s morning skate at Bridgestone Arena and has skated with the team over the last few days, and is on track to return for Thursday night’s home tilt against the Arizona Coyotes. DeBrusk has only missed a couple of games with the injury, but hopes that he can jump back into the lineup wielding a hot stick like he did just prior to getting hurt with two goals and five points in his last five games played. 


DeBrusk is currently on injured reserve to allow the Bruins to put off a roster move until after their current road trip, but something will have to give if the B’s come out of Monday night’s game completely healthy. Matt Beleskey, Frank Vatrano and Ryan Spooner are the most likely moveable Bruins pieces up front once DeBrusk comes off the injury list, but it remains to be seen which road the Bruins want to go down with a surplus up front. 

“The players are aware of what’s going on. We’ve tried to create a healthy competition throughout the lineup. You’ve seen it at times up front where we’ve used younger guys over more established guys,” said Bruce Cassidy. “You’re starting to see it on the back end with Grzelcyk staying in there, and we’ve seen it in net. So I think [the competition] is good if it makes you better. We have good character in the room, so guys understand what we’re trying to do. It’s not personal. That’s the business side of it where you need to do your part and do it well, or there are guys pushing you.”

There is clearly risk in losing Vatrano for nothing if they expose him to waivers in order to send him to the AHL, and Spooner hasn’t been able to buck up his trade value just a few games removed from a groin injury. It would be a major organizational decision to bury Beleskey’s contract in the minor leagues despite his offensive struggles (zero points and a minus-8 in 14 games) again this season, and it doesn’t appear that the B’s are ready to go down that road yet. 

It might be easy to just send Sean Kuraly or Danton Heinen to the AHL instead given that both players aren't waiver-eligible, but both players have carved out pretty solid roles on the team at this point. A trade of either Spooner or Vatrano might be a possibility, but it's unclear what kind of value either underachieving player holds in any discussions right now. 

If forced into a move by DeBrusk’s return, a trip to Providence for Vatrano (two goals in 18 games) would be the most reasonable outcome for the Bruins. Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings against the Nashville Predators based on morning skate: 













Morning Skate: Talkin' B's as in Bruins, Backes, big game

File photo

Morning Skate: Talkin' B's as in Bruins, Backes, big game

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting tired of the Friday news dumps.

*Here’s your Saturday morning hockey show on 98.5 the Sports Hub where yours truly, Billy Jaffe, Ryan Johnston, Bob Beers and Judd Sirott all talked Bruins, Ryan Donato, David Backes’ busy week and Boston’s big game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight among other things.

*Alex Galchenyuk has been regaining his rhythm, speed and effectiveness for the Montreal Canadiens even as so many other things for them are spinning out of control.

*Braden Holtby has been one of a number of big-time NHL goalies that have struggled at times this season, but he may be getting his mojo back for the Washington Capitals.

*It looks like there’s never been a better time to be an NHL coach as all 31 coaches are going to keep their jobs through the season, the first time that’s happened in more than 50 years.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the details of Ilya Kovalchuk looking to return to the NHL next season after five years over in Russia.

*For something completely different: Love these galleries that Anthony Breznican does at Entertainment Weekly to break down the new Star Wars/Marvel trailers when they finally drop on the Internet. There are such great, little details to them.


Backes gets a shot at centering top line vs. Lightning

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Backes gets a shot at centering top line vs. Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. – The Bruins will switch things up a little bit heading into their important game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, and that means a new look among their forward group. 

The Bruins are bumping David Backes up to a center spot on the top line in between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and pushing Riley Nash back to the third-line center spot that he’s manned for most of the season.

Certainly, Nash has done an admirable job of filling in for an injured Patrice Bergeron, but the expectation is that Backes can bring a little more of an offensive jolt, perhaps protect Marchand and Pastrnak a little bit and improve a face-off performance with the Bruins that’s been lacking a little lately. Bruce Cassidy acknowledged that on a very short list of areas where the Lightning can be exploited, their abilities in the face-off dot is one of them.

“It’s something we talked about. It’s an easy switch to go back to. Backes is fresh and Riley has played a lot of hockey lately, so maybe this will be David a little motivated being up there. They’ll probably see the top lines, so we’ll see how David responds to that. It will get David a few more looks offensively as well,” said Cassidy of Backes, who joked he thought he was going to be a healthy scratch when he didn't see his name in its normal third-line spot on the pre-practice whiteboard. “[The face-offs] are also part of it. Without [Patrice] Bergeron and [David] Backes get tossed the other night, we had a tough time.

“Tampa doesn’t have very many weaknesses, but if there’s one you could sort of nitpick at it’s the face-off dot. So it’s somewhere we can start hopefully with the puck a little more than them.”

That’s what can happen when a team is missing Bergeron and his 56.9 percent win rate in the face-off circle. Backes has been good this season winning 53 percent of his draws in limited center duty while Nash is at 47.6 percent and Sean Kuraly is at 46.4 percent, so it’s pretty clear why the Bruins are struggling in the dot recently.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on an optional morning skate at Amalie Arena: