Bruins

Bruins roster projection 3.0: Looking at the B's season-opening roster

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Bruins roster projection 3.0: Looking at the B's season-opening roster

BOSTON — With the Bruins now done with their exhibition season, there isn’t anything left for anybody to do to impress the B’s coaching staff.

A bubble forward like David Backes has probably made the roster based on his strong performance that came to a crescendo with his final preseason appearance in the win over the Devils earlier this week. It’s clear that he put in the work during the summer, and that both he and power forward Brett Ritchie will probably be jostling for the same spot among the top-12 forwards on a nightly basis.

One forward who enjoyed a strong camp, but won’t be cracking the NHL roster to start the season in all likelihood?

It’s Anders Bjork, who did everything he probably needed to do in order to get things back on track after each of his last two seasons were wiped out by shoulder surgeries. Bjork was fast, he was aggressive, he looked stronger on the puck and more willing to engage in the danger areas, and he was able to create some offense as well.

Despite all of this, the 23-year-old Bjork is expected to start the season in Providence. On its face it would appear that Bjork didn’t make the cut, but it’s much more about the B’s being interested in seeing him build back up to a place where he’s really going to help the team in Boston. Consider the boost the Bruins could get from popping Bjork into their lineup later this season if he can regain the offensive mojo that he lost on the surgeon’s table in each of the last two seasons.

That’s what the Bruins are hoping for.

“He was drafted as a scoring winger. He hasn’t been able to do that consistently at the professional level, so we have to determine [whether] he is going to be able to do it here? Or is he better served in Providence, finding that part of his game? What’s going to be better for us in the long run? Do we need him here in the short term? That’s what we balance,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We proved last year we had a good lineup [and] added a center and a winger.

“We’ll have to make that determination, but my guess is [the AHL] is where he will probably end up starting, to work on that part of his game. He had a good training camp, good preseason and he’s healthy, bigger, stronger. So that’ll be just in my preliminary evaluation there, but we’ll sit down again and go over it.”

Otherwise, the only wrinkle for the Bruins lineup is moving things around on the fourth line because Joakim Nordstrom (foot) isn’t going to be ready to start the year on Thursday night in Dallas. It could be as easy as pushing Sean Kuraly over to left wing and essentially having two centers on the energy line with both Kuraly and Par Lindholm able to handle duties there to start off the year.

Otherwise, this should be the group that hits the ice on Oct. 3 provided that David Krejci (lower body) is able to play as the B’s currently think he’ll be able to after tweaking something in preseason action earlier this week:  

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk David Krejci Karson Kuhlman
Danton Heinen Charlie Coyle David Backes
Sean Kuraly Par Lindholm Chris Wagner

Scratches: Brett Ritchie

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

Scratch: Steven Kampfer

GOALTENDERS

Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

Injured: John Moore, Kevan Miller, Joakim Nordstrom

How humbling experience sparked change for Backes>>>>>

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Sean Kuraly, Bruins fourth line 'trying to get back to what makes them a good line'

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Sean Kuraly, Bruins fourth line 'trying to get back to what makes them a good line'

BRIGHTON, Mass. — While there are obviously plenty of things that have gone right for the Bruins given their standing in first place in the Atlantic Division, their fourth line hasn’t really been one of them.

A big part of it, obviously, is the number of injuries suffered early in the season with left winger Joakim Nordstrom out of the mix for 11 games, so the continuity wasn’t there early in the season with a number of different faces on Boston’s energy line.

But the regular trio has been together for the last few weeks, and still hasn’t completely found the footing that made them one of the most effective fourth lines in the NHL last season. They have combined for just four goals in the first 20 games this season, and both Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly have been minus players this season.

The good news is that some offensive opportunities are beginning to come their way, enough so that Wagner has been unsuccessfully tapped for the shootout in each of the last two instances where the Bruins made it to the extra season.

But it’s also clear to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy that his fourth line needs to get back to basics and do what they do best in playing with speed and physicality, shutting down top lines and occasionally popping in secondary offense when chances present themselves. Right now they are doing some of that, but clearly haven’t hit the high levels they were at a little more often last season.

“I think [Kuraly] is losing sight a little bit of what makes them a good line, and what makes him a good player. He’s visibly frustrated when he’s not finishing, which I get. Guys want to score. But that shouldn’t then affect the rest of his game, and I think it has a little bit. We’ve pulled them aside as a line, especially the assistant coaches, and have gone through things when they’re solid,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think the puck is finding Sean and the rest of their line; they just have to finish. But he really has to make sure what his primary role is and that’s been our message to him.

“That’s being a shutdown guy and making life miserable for one of their top two lines, and then get the job done on the penalty. I don’t want to say the offense is gravy, but you’ve just got to play through that part of it and not let if affect you mentally.”

Kuraly himself admitted that it hasn’t been an easy go of it this season and understands exactly what needs to be done to get them back to their high level of play.

“My details can be better and that’s my focus. I want to be top end at the little things and the details,” said Kuraly, who has been a minus-3 with just five shots on net in the last five games for the Bruins. “I think some of that might have slipped lately and my focus is going to be getting that back to what it was. It’s realizing when I do that, I give the team a good chance to win — and when I don’t, it can hurt us. A lot of that can fall on me.”

Maybe what the B's fourth line needs is simply to play crash-and-bang hockey with some responsible defense thrown in for a couple of games. Once they have become difficult to play against once again, then the offense will follow afterward.

It remains to be seen exactly when the B’s energy line is going to make the expected turnaround, but it sounds like everybody is on the same page as to how exactly that’s going to happen, when it does happen.

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Bruins' Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie trending toward return vs. Devils

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Bruins' Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie trending toward return vs. Devils

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins should get at least a couple of pieces of their team back from injuries for Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Jake DeBrusk (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) both skated without restrictions in Monday morning’s practice at Warrior Arena, and it sounded like they would play against the Devils barring any setbacks following practice. For DeBrusk, it will be a welcome return after a five-game absence and he’ll hope to pick up where he left off with goals in each of the two games before he got hurt early in the first period against the Canadiens on November 5.

“I’m feeling good,” said DeBrusk, who has three goals and six points in 15 games this season. “I’ve obviously been missing the game, so it was great skating with the boys today. I scored in back-to-back games before Montreal, so I used the time [out with injury] to reflect on things and rejuvenate myself in a way. It was different things that were getting to me a little bit. I used the time to be more mature with my approach [to the game] coming back whenever that is going to be.”

Patrice Bergeron (lower body) didn’t skate with the Bruins on Monday and will be a game-time decision against the Devils while planning to travel with the team to New Jersey. Torey Krug (upper body) skated ahead of practice on Monday and could be nearing a return to the lineup as well, but he won’t be playing against the Devils.

“Ritchie and DeBrusk both skated and no residual effects right now, so we anticipate they’re going to play,” said Cassidy. “We’ll put them as game-time decisions. “Krug skated. He’s not available [against the Devils] so he’ll be available a little later as well.”

As far as other injured Bruins are concerned, Kevan Miller has had a couple of days off the ice, “won’t play this week” but is looking at a possible return to game action next week after he was not on the ice with the team on Monday morning. John Moore (shoulder surgery) did skate with the main group and continues to make progress in his recovery from offseason surgery.

Tuukka Rask will get the start against the Devils on Tuesday night, and both Brendan Gaunce and Urho Vaakanainen were called up to the Bruins ahead of Tuesday’s trip to New Jersey. It didn’t look like Gaunce will be playing against the Devils, however, unless somebody expected to play isn’t able to at game time.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings for Tuesday night’s game vs. the Devils based on practice:

PROJECTED LINES

Brad Marchand David Krejci David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork Charlie Coyle Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk Par Lindholm Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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