The return of David Pastrnak is inching closer as the 24-year-old Bruins right winger practiced again on Tuesday and has a better chance of playing in Wednesday’s Game 5 than he did in Monday night’s Game 4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Pastrnak has missed each of the last three games in the first-round series against the Hurricanes with an upper body injury suffered in the final moments of Game 1, but he’s skated with the team since last weekend while working back from the injury.
Meanwhile, the Bruins have won without Pastrnak, but it’s impossible to say they haven’t missed him after watching Anders Bjork struggle trying to fill his spot on the top line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
“Better than they were,” said Cassidy, when asked about the chances of Pastrnak suiting up for Game 5. “He skated today and made it through practice doing a few battle drills. Some of that will depend on how he feels in the morning with the residual effect.
“The other day we thought he had an outside chance, but now I’d give it better than that. We’ll have to make a decision in the morning. A 4 p.m. game is tough because [for an evening game] you’d be able to test it out in the morning. That will be the challenge for the medical staff. If he’s 100 percent with no risk for further injury, then he’ll be in the lineup.”
Speaking of Bergeron and Marchand, both players were missing from the practice ice on Tuesday but are expected to be in the lineup for Game 5 on Wednesday afternoon with a chance to close out Carolina while up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
The question really becomes whether the Bruins should play Pastrnak given his situation, or use the benefits of a few extra days of rest and recovery if they can close out the Hurricanes in five games while waiting for their next opponent. The opinion of this humble hockey writer: There’s zero reason to rush Pastrnak back with the B’s in complete control of the series against a lesser opponent they’ve beaten in seven of the last eight playoff games over the last two seasons.
The Bruins and Pastrnak would be best-served sitting him for Game 5, hopefully closing out the series and then targeting the NHL leading goal-scorer’s return for the next round whether it’s against the Islanders, Tampa Bay or Philadelphia.