BRIGHTON, Mass – As the rigors of the 82-game regular season wear on and the late-season schedule for the Bruins, in particular, takes its toll, it’s not surprising that some of Boston’s younger players are struggling to maintain consistency.
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One of those players is Danton Heinen, 22, who has been excellent all season as a third-line scoring winger who plays a 200-foot game and brought consistency with him in his rookie NHL season. Heinen has just one point in his past nine games and has seen his ice time drop to below 13 minutes the past couple of games. Heinen was skipped over for a few shifts in the middle of the 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night in order to double-shift Brad Marchand. Bruce Cassidy said that was in recognition that they may need to throttle down on Heinen’s usage just a little bit.
“[It] looks like Danton is fighting it a bit right now. We’ve talked about some of our younger guys [with] peaks and valleys, and he’s in one of those ruts that we’re trying to help him through yet still win hockey games,” said Cassidy. “[You] send your message and try to play Brad a little more to get him going. The first period, we got into some penalty trouble. He took one. So, at the end of the day, those are coaches’ decisions, and you hope the player is better off for it in the long run.
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“Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t. We’ll always keep talking to Danton. He’s a good, solid player for us. But right now, he is slogging his way through this time of the year. We need to get his energy level up. Some of that might be less playing time, etc. There are different avenues, and [against Carolina] that’s one of them we chose.”
Clearly, it’s something that Heinen is going to have to work through and the hard work hasn’t changed his compete level, even as he wasn’t able to generate any shots on net in the past two games. It’s simply a rookie wall of sports that Heinen is going to have to bust through, and he’ll need to do it with a different center now that Riley Nash is filling in for an injured Patrice Bergeron on the top line. Newly acquired Tommy Wingels centered Heinen and David Backes Tuesday night.
It’s not going to get any easier as the schedule keeps ramping up for the Bruins in the final six weeks of their season, but Heinen is too good of an offensive catalyst, too hard of a worker and too smart of a player to not regain things well ahead of the playoffs that await 21 regular season games down the road.