BRIGHTON, Mass – It might have been a bit of a stunner for his Bruins teammates to see David Pastrnak absent on the practice ice on Thursday after he’d skated with the team on the prior day. And even more so to then learn in the ensuing days that he was back in quarantine after exposure to somebody that tested positive for COVID-19.
But it sounded like the Bruins were taking it all in stride when asked about it on Saturday while not sounding too worried their leading goal-scorer was going to be out for an extended period of time.
His linemate Brad Marchand even felt like it was okay to take a crack at Pastrnak’s expense amidst plenty of wrongheaded speculation prior to Pastrnak’s agent JP Barry confirming to NBCSportsBoston.com that No. 88 was indeed in quarantine and had previously tested negative for COVID-19.
The circumstances explain Pastrnak’s presence at practice on Wednesday before being quarantined, and debunked theories that his “unfit to participate” designation was about his conditioning, or some kind of disciplinary action from the Bruins.
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“It’s kind of news to me about Pasta. I thought he was just on a two-day hangover,” said a joking Marchand, with a laugh on a Saturday afternoon zoom call with reporters. “Pasta is going to be back for the playoffs, I’m not really looking too much into it. It doesn’t take long for chemistry to bounce back with us. Even when I’m going down [the ice] with Bjorky now and Bergy, we’re kind of looking [to pass] into the areas where Pasta normally sets up.
“I’m just out there trying to fine-tune my skills and what I need to work on to get back to where my game [needs to be] on the ice. That chemistry stuff, when we do line drills it comes back very quickly. It’s not something that [Patrice Bergeron] and I are concerned about.”
One subject it does bring up, however, is the possibility that a player could go absent for COVID-19 reasons once the games start being played next month. Even with a full two-week quarantine period Pastrnak would be back practicing and skating prior to the B’s playing in any round-robin games, so there’s no real danger of he or Ondrej Kase being gone for playoff games provided they test negative between now and then.
But it does give the Bruins a little mental preparation at what it might be like if a teammate, or an opponent for that matter, was suddenly unavailable at a key point in a playoff series over the next few months. Still, Marchand tends to think that the conditions inside the Hub City bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton are going to prevent the majority of the stray COVID-19 issues in the NHL that we’re seeing right now.
“It’s unfortunate the times that we’re in, but this is the new reality for right now anyways. The team is just going to have to be willing to be resilient and battle through it, and we’ve done that [before]. We’ve done that the last number of years where we’ve had a lot of guys out and gone through a lot of injuries,” said Marchand. “There’s definitely a chance that a team’s going to be in the conference finals, or in the finals, and lose one of their top guys. I would expect with the way things are going to be set up that once we get into the bubble, I can’t imagine that many guys are going to get sick. It’s going to be pretty locked down. We’re going to be kept well away from everybody else.
“There’s going to be a chance obviously, but I would expect they’re going to do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen. That could cost a team, or an organization, millions of dollars if they lose one of their top guys during the finals. They’re going to do what they can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The best-case scenario could have Pastrnak back in the fold at some point next week once he’s cleared quarantine and tested negative once again for the COVID-19 virus. That’s what everybody with the Bruins is obviously hoping for at this point when it comes to the health and well-being of Pastrnak and Kase.
“It’s tough news, obviously,” said Charlie McAvoy. “But I think everybody has taken it seriously and we know what we need to do to be in good position for success [during the playoffs]. I hadn’t known anybody who has had it and hopefully that’s the case here.”