Bruins

All signs point to Donato being a healthy scratch for Game 1

All signs point to Donato being a healthy scratch for Game 1

BRIGHTON -- With the depth that the Bruins have at forward, you knew a pretty good player would get kicked upstairs as a healthy scratch once the B's got healthy.

With both Rick Nash and Sean Kuraly appearing to be ready for Game 1 on Thursday night, it looks like 21-year-old Ryan Donato will sit out the playoff opener. Donato was a spare forward during Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and afterwards Bruce Cassidy confirmed that he may be the one who won't play.

“Let’s say Rick Nash [plays]," said Cassidy. "He’s a power-play guy in front and he did very well there for us, and very well there for New York and Columbus. So we’re not worried about any dropoff there. He’s going up with [David] Krejci and we like [Jake] DeBrusk back there, so now Ryan was on that line on his off side. So there is a very proven [player in Nash] and that’s where Ryan loses his spot.

“Now you go down the lineup and we like our fourth line. So now it’s a question of is it him, [David] Backes and [Danton] Heinen, or [Noel] Acciari if  [Tommy] Wingels goes in. So that’s the next phase of it.

“Then the last part of it is how many young guys go in the lineup at once where we sustain our level of play because it’s the second season. So we factor all of those in.

"Now [being scratched] for Game 1 doesn’t mean [it’s also] for Game 2. It could change in a hurry. We’ve talked to a number of guys about that may or may not be in. They may be disappointing, but they need to make sure that they’re ready to go. This lineup isn’t set in stone.”

The issue really is about where Donato would fit given the Bruins’ current state. Clearly they have some trepidation about plugging Donato in as a third-line center with the expectation that Riley Nash (upper body) isn’t going to play in Game 1, and it looks like Acciari might be the guy that gets that job. If that happens then it becomes a choice between Donato and either DeBrusk or Heinen, or a choice of picking Donato over Wingels in more of a fourth-line role in the playoffs.

DeBrusk and Heinen have earned their spots with Heinen, in particular, picking things up over the last few weeks, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a skilled, inexperienced rookie like Donato would be a good on a fourth line in the playoffs.

It’s a little bit of an eyebrow-raiser given that Donato had five goals and nine points in his 12 games with the Bruins since signing out of Harvard, and has been a noticeable factor around the net on the power play as well. Donato said he understood the situation if indeed he is sitting for the first game of the playoffs, and, as a first-year player, he’ll treat it as a learning experience for when he does get his shot in the postseason.

“I just come with a positive attitude," he said. "Obviously it’s tough joining on [a team] at the end of the season and they’ve been doing great without me. I’m just going to keep working hard, and whenever my number is called I’ll be ready to go. I don’t take it as an insult. I just take it as a 50-win team that’s been great all year. I wouldn’t take that personally.”

As Cassidy himself said, it also doesn’t mean that the Bruins won’t be going right back to Donato in Game 2 if there’s an injury, or one of other rookies doesn’t look ready for prime time, or if the offense struggles for the Bruins during the opening night of the postseason. So let’s not quite paint Cassidy as a Claude Julien-like figure shunning his young hockey talent if, indeed, Donato starts his Bruins playoff career as a healthy scratch on Thursday night.

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Bruce Cassidy's message to Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn: 'It's time to separate yourself'

Bruce Cassidy's message to Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn: 'It's time to separate yourself'

BRIGHTON, Mass – With Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo now signed and in training camp, the news is overwhelmingly positive for the Black and Gold with a full camp roster highlighted by players returning from last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

“The band is back together now, eh?” said a smiling Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy when asked about it on Wednesday afternoon with everybody on the ice and Patrice Bergeron seemingly healthy with no restrictions, either.

But a slew of returning players and avoided contract snafus also means few open spots on the NHL roster with the start of the regular season just a couple of weeks away. For some players, the clock is running short on their time to make an impact and become part of a Bruins group expected to once again compete and go deep in the playoffs this season.

Bruins prospects like 23-year-old Anders Bjork, 22-year-old Zach Senyshyn and 22-year-old Jakub Zboril are at a major crossroads with the Black and Gold entering this season. All three enter the final year of their entry level deals, as do Jeremy Lauzon, Ryan Fitzgerald and Karson Kuhlman, and need to begin making a bigger impact if they want to remain within the organization.

“Those guys are in the last year of their entry deals. It is important. You’re playing for your spot here in Boston, but also for your livelihood. You want to earn that next contract, and for some guys it takes a little bit longer,” said Cassidy. “They should be farther down the line than a guy like [Oskar] Steen that’s just coming in here and it’s all new to them. You’d expect those guys to push through.

“It’s just the circle of life so to speak. You have guys turning pro every year and we’ve got to make room for them. It’s kind of time to separate yourself. You should be the first call-up if you’re in that situation, and that should be your goal.”

Certainly Bjork is in a bit of a different category since he’s already played 50 NHL games, and a pair of shoulder surgeries have played a big role in holding back his development. But for Zboril and Senyshyn, former first round picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, it’s getting to become now or never time after a couple of “just okay” seasons at the AHL level.

Zboril has put identical four goal, 19-point seasons at the AHL over the last two seasons in Providence, and did so last year while playing in 12 fewer games for the P-Bruins. Senyshyn finished with 14 goals and 24 points last season for Providence, a pair of points less than he scored in his first pro season while playing in 66 games both seasons.

Zboril hasn’t really tapped into the offensive end of his game that many projected for him when he was in junior hockey, and Senyshyn hasn’t much resembled the guy that scored 40-plus goals in the OHL during his junior career. The Bruins are still searching for a top-6 right wing to play with David Krejci, and that should be Senyshyn based on his age and where he was drafted.

It just hasn’t happened to this point as the undrafted Kuhlman took that spot in the Bruins lineup during the Stanley Cup Final, and open auditions are once again there for the spot this fall in training camp.

Each now has some NHL games under their belt, but both were also surpassed organizationally by Connor Clifton and Kuhlman last season when injuries hit the Black and Gold at the NHL level. That’s a pretty telling statement about where both Zboril and Senyshyn are currently at in the organization, and an indicator that they both need to step up their games. If not, the bust term is going to be applied to two of the three first round picks from the 2015 NHL draft where the Bruins became the first team in history to make three consecutive first round selections.

“I’m just trying to show my details and show my work ethic and use my speed to take pucks to the net,” said Senyshyn, who said that playing a couple of games in the NHL last season has ‘lit a fire under me.’ “I think doing the little details that I’ve done the last couple of years in Providence is going to be big. I just have to trust my game and play with confidence.”

At this point, Zboril and Senyshyn are never going to be able to make people forget that players like Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot and Brock Boeser were selected shortly after them in that infamous first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. But they can make sure they are of use to the B’s organization and still attempt to develop into the impact players that Bruins scouts once clearly envisioned them to be four years ago.

If it doesn’t happen this season then it probably won’t be long before either of them, or both, might be facing an uphill battle in another NHL organization that doesn’t have as much invested in them.

Bruins prefer to leave Charlie Coyle at third-line center>>>

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Bruins' 'preference' is to leave Charlie Coyle at third line center

charlie_coyle.jpg
File photo

Bruins' 'preference' is to leave Charlie Coyle at third line center

BRIGHTON -- There was some question as to whether Charlie Coyle might get a little time at wing this season for the Bruins after locking things down at the third line center position last season after coming over in trade from the Minnesota Wild.

The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Coyle brought two-way play, puck possession and offensive upside to the third line upon his arrival, and then he really stepped it up in the playoffs with nine goals and 16 points in his 24 games. So naturally, there is curiosity as to whether his size, strength and offense could move up to right wing on the second line where his game could be paired pretty comfortably with playmaking David Krejci.

Or even more radically, Coyle’s size and strength could make an interesting match on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

But it sounds like the Bruins are going to keep things strong down the middle with Bergeron and Krejci as their top-6 centers and Coyle and Sean Kuraly as the bottom-6 centers giving the B's depth and quality down the middle of the lineup. Coyle was centering Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen at practice on Wednesday afternoon and has played center throughout training camp.

It may be getting to a point now where they don’t want to fool around with things by switching Coyle’s positions on him as happened in Minnesota, and it certainly sounds like Cassidy’s preference is to leave him at center.

“Generally speaking the match-up is the D-pair and the centerman down low. The wingers obviously matter, but they are less of a factor. At least that’s what I think when I think match-ups. So to have Charlie [Coyle] in there [at center] now, and my intention is to keep him there unless the team would be better served with him on the wing,” said Cassidy. “Right now, we like the way we played last year and hopefully this year. It makes you a lot more comfortable in terms of defending.”

Cassidy reserved the right to change his mind if Trent Frederic really comes along as an NHL-ready center or if all of the top-6 right wing candidates end up dropping the ball in training camp. That doesn’t appear to be the case over the first week of training camp and that may just mean Coyle stays in his comfortable position at center where he gives the Bruins the lineup depth that helped catapult them to the Stanley Cup Final last spring.

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