It’s certainly not easy to make an NHL debut while also replacing a star player in the lineup, but that’s what it amounts to for 20-year-old B’s prospect Jack Studnicka getting ready to make his first NHL appearance on Tuesday night.
Studnicka, of course, is in because Patrice Bergeron is out indefinitely with a lower body injury and didn't make the two-game road trip through Montreal and Ottawa.
Even better for Studnicka is that his debut is going to be in Montreal at the Bell Centre against the Canadiens in a big Atlantic Division showdown between the longtime rivals. Studnicka has nine goals and 18 points along with a plus-7 rating in 21 games for the Providence Bruins in his first full professional season, and the 6-foot-2, 175-pound center has certainly impressed with his play down at the AHL level thus far this year.
“[Studnicka] has been very consistent. He’s been scoring a lot. He’s killing penalties and he had [a shorthanded goal] the other night, so he’s been playing well in all facets of the game. Our concern in his first recall will be how strong he is going to be,” said Bruce Cassidy of the 2017 second-round pick who played his junior hockey in Oshawa and Niagara. “So we’ll see. He’s handled it well down [in Providence]. When we call guys up from Providence, we want to reward the best player. Every once in a while, we go outside of that because there’s a line match-up issue, or a position issue. But I’ve been told he’s arguably been their best player, so hopefully just stay out of his way and just let him play to see where he’s at.”
Stunicka will get placed into a big spot right out of the gate against the Habs, befitting his standing as the top Bruins forward prospect in the system. Studnicka will center Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle on the second line behind David Krejci centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and essentially the Bruins will be loading up on their top couple of forward lines while leaving a third line of young forwards that Bruce Cassidy can bench if he needs to.
It's a good test for Stunicka, who is the organization's best shot at a young top-6 center able to aid Bergeron and Krejci, as both those centers hit their mid-30's when injuries and age are beginning to gnaw away at their overall ability to effectively handle the workload and responsiblity.
Here are the projected Bruins forward combos and D-pairings based on reports out of Montreal ahead of Tuesday night’s Bruins/Canadiens game with Jaroslav Halak expected to get the start against his former Canadiens club:
|Brad Marchand||David Krejci||David Pastrnak|
|Jake DeBrusk||Jack Studnicka||Charlie Coyle|
|Anders Bjork||Sean Kuraly||Danton Heinen|
|Joakim Nordstrom||Par Lindholm||Chris Wagner|
|Zdeno Chara||Charlie McAvoy|
|Torey Krug||Brandon Carlo|
|Matt Grzelcyk||Connor Clifton|
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