The Bruins are no strangers to players shuttling in and out of availability during this Return to Play, so there hasn’t been a lot of overreaction to players missing a few days. That being said, it’s notable now that Nick Ritchie has missed a handful of Bruins practice sessions in a row, including a pair in the Toronto bubble, while “unfit to participate” with the rest of his teammates.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara missed Monday’s practice session when one of his COVID-19 test results took a little longer than expected to make it back to the team, but the 43-year-old was back at it on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Jack Studnicka and Anders Bjork continue to get repetitions at the wing with both Ritchie and Ondrej Kase missing significant practice time.
“Ritchie will be the only out [for practice] out of the players that are here,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App
Essentially, the absences wipe out all of the additions that general manager Don Sweeney made at the trade deadline when he brought in both Ritchie and Kase from Anaheim, and leaves the Bruins with question marks at the wing on their second and third lines. In fact, Cassidy was quick to say on Tuesday morning that Kase may not automatically get his job back when he’s finally ready to return after missing all of Phase 3 training camp and then unable to fly to Toronto with the rest of the team last weekend.
Even when Kase is able to make it to Toronto, he’ll need to be quarantined for a handful of days before he’s able to take place in any practices or team activities. That gives Studnicka and Bjork a lot of opportunities to seize the job and hold onto it if either one of them performs well to start off with the Black and Gold.
Meanwhile, Kase falls further behind on the depth chart after he was penciled in as the second line right wing prior to training camp getting started.
“For me, it’s a bit about the loyalty for the player that’s injured,” said Cassidy. “For example, if it was a guy that was with us for our playoff run last year and regular seasons and I knew he was going to be ready to do the job, it would be a little easier to give him his job back because of the trust factor. Ondrej came late, so he’s building [the trust factor]. It’s not a negative. I just don’t know the player well enough right now. He only had a handful of games to integrate himself with the group and try to build some chemistry.
“We tried him with Krejci at first and then moved him around, so that would be an interesting one. Say it’s [Studnicka] or Bjork that takes off while Ondrej is not ready [to play], and we’ve strung together five, six or seven games and played a round? I’d have to seriously consider making a change to a guy I’ve seen more of. There may be other situations that come up, injuries or whatever, and Ondrej gets his chance then. To answer your question, it wouldn’t be an automatic to put Ondrej back in if one of the young kids was playing well.”
To Cassidy’s point, Kase played just six games with one point for the Bruins after arriving in the trade with Anaheim. He wasn’t ready to play post-trade after arriving in Boston while recovering from a concussion, and now he’s missed all training activities and practices with the Bruins readying for a round-robin game Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Kase may not exactly be in the Bruins doghouse right now, but it certainly sounds like they are making alternative plans while not relying on him to be a significant contributor on their journey toward a Stanley Cup. It's awfully tough to be viewed as a reliable contributor for a team like the Bruins when you can't even get on the ice.