BRIGHTON, Mass. — At this point, it’s expected that Ondrej Kase isn’t going to join the Bruins until they arrive in Toronto at the end of this week, and won’t be on the ice until some point next week at the earliest.
Cam Neely confirmed as much when he spoke with the media via Zoom on Wednesday and it remains to be seen if David Pastrnak is back any sooner practicing with the Black and Gold. At least for the 24-year-old Pastrnak, he’ll be rejoining longtime linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the Perfection Line and getting back to a power play unit where he’s intimately worked with the other members for the last few years.
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But Kase is a player who had barely got his feet wet with the Bruins after arriving at the trade deadline, and subsequently being held out for a bit as he recovered from a concussion following the trade from Anaheim. The 24-year-old winger played exactly six games for the Bruins before the regular season went on pause and notched just one assist in 14:32 of ice time per game while skating mostly with David Krejci.
He showed some ability to create his own offense and could be the kind of secondary offense that the Bruins have been seeking out for the last few seasons. But now he’s way, way behind the rest of his teammates after missing camp while being labeled “unfit to participate” and has the B’s missing both of their presumed top-6 right wingers right now.
That’s clearly a challenge for Kase — and for the Bruins.
“Clearly Ondrej hasn’t joined us and we’re traveling to Toronto on Sunday, so we’ve got two practices left [in Boston]. So he’s got some catching up to do,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy during Thursday’s call with Bruins media. “If we feel that he’s not caught up and we feel that [Anders] Bjork and [Karson Kuhlman] are playing well, then that’s the direction that we will go. I haven’t seen Ondrej play in the playoffs, so he would be a guy that we’re not 100 percent sure on how he’s going to perform at that level.
“You assume it would be fine… better than fine, it would be good. But now you’re chasing it a bit by getting that far behind. So we have to look at that. And we’ve said that all along. There could be people because of testing purposes that fall behind, and you have to rely on your depth. We’re experiencing that right now even though we haven’t played any games.”
On the other side of Kase, Anders Bjork has been one of the better performers in training camp who has played mostly with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in Pastrnak’s spot.
Don’t doubt that won’t be forgotten anytime soon by the Bruins watching a player who was ready to go and looks poised to make an advancement in his game as opposed to a talented young guy in Kase who never truly carved out a spot before going missing for Return to Play camp.