Cassidy looking for more out of Bruins middle two lines

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Cassidy looking for more out of Bruins middle two lines

BOSTON – After watching the Perfection Line drop five goals and 11 points on the Ottawa Senators just a few days after Brad Marchand racked up assists on all four goals in the 4-0 shutout against the Buffalo Sabres, it’s clear that the Bruins top line is rolling. It also seems like the Bruins fourth line is jelling after the B’s smartly decided to drop Sean Kuraly back to the fourth-line center between hard-hitting, smash-mouth wingers Chris Wagner and Noel Acciari.

Wagner scored his first goal as a member of the Bruins in Monday’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on a high tip of a Charlie McAvoy point shot, and it looked like the three forwards were already getting comfortable with each other.

It’s the other two lines – David Krejci’s line and a third line that’s still being tinkered with – that still register as unknowns for Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. There isn’t much offense coming from those two forward groups even if Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato had some really good puck possession shifts in the offensive zone. So, Cassidy must decide whether to leave things as they are for a while to allow the chemistry to build, or to continue tweaking, tinkering and adjusting until he finds what he’s looking for.

“Yeah, some of the line combinations,” said Cassidy, when asked what he still doesn’t know about his Bruins team. “There were a couple lines tonight that I thought could’ve been better, and they’re going to have to sort out their chemistry in their own end and how they’re going to attack.”

With both Krejci and Donato with one point each and DeBrusk with zero points after three games, they’re also going to have to sort things out in the offensive zone as well if they’re going to support Boston’s top trio. On the plus side, Cassidy did like what he saw of 34-year-old David Backes back playing center between Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen, so perhaps that will be something the B’s will try out for a while.

“I kind of like Backs [David Backes] in the middle. I think [Anders] Bjork had his legs under him tonight. Anders just has to learn how to manage the puck, when to make plays, when not to hang onto it because he’s got it a lot,” said Cassidy, of a line that combined for eight shot attempts in Monday’s win over the Sens. “it’s just for him to figure out, okay if I do give it up in this league it’s tough to get it back, so we’d like him to possess it even more.

I liked his speed. Danton’s [Heinen] game was coming. He was very responsible, so I thought that line worked out well for us. David can only speak to how he liked being in the middle of the ice. It’s one game, but certainly, that’ll be the plan going forward unless something changes in the next few days.”

One thing is for certain: Cassidy is going to have to find the proper combinations with the players he now has on his NHL roster. Both Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic are weeks, if not months, away from potentially pushing for their NHL looks, and wingers Zach Senyshyn won’t be supplanting the likes of Bjork, Donato or Heinen anytime soon.

So with two lines starting to jell just three games into the regular season, Cassidy is still looking for the magical fit for his other six forwards that will begin to unlock the secondary offense that the Bruins will most desperately need against quality opponents. 


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:


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


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


Tuukka Rask

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