BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins will get in a couple of their veteran players for a big game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.
Rookie third-line winger Danton Heinen and young third-pairing defenseman Matt Grzelcyk will both be scratched against the reigning back-to-back champs on Thursday night at TD Garden. Instead, both Brian Gionta and Nick Holden will make their Bruins debuts after the trade deadline.
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Bruce Cassidy pointed to some of the recent struggles for Heinen (one point in his past nine games) as the reason behind his healthy scratch and said that Grzelcyk was a little banged up as he makes way for the bigger, more established Holden.
“I talked a little bit about the expectations for Danton this month and it’s going to be a grind moving forward,” said Cassidy, referencing the 16 games that the Bruins will play in March. “We like him as a player and we trust him as a player. His defensive game is really fine for a young guy. But he’s not winning quite as many battles, so he can go upstairs and a watch a game from up there. He’s probably going to learn something, and then on the flip side, we get Gionta in.
“We’ll probably do that with a number of guys if we’re afforded that luxury to be able to mix and match. That’s the nice thing about having some depth. Down the road, there will be players of all different experience levels [getting a rest] because of the business of the schedule. Hopefully, they understand they’ll be better off for it in the long run.”
The sense here is that it will be a simple one-game breather for the Heinen, 22, as he’s shown signs of fatigue while staying out of the battles more than he did earlier in the season. With Holden, it might be a little tougher to keep him out of the everyday lineup if he performs well against Pittsburgh. Cassidy indicated that he may begin rotating players in and out of the lineup on a nightly basis as they play through a rugged schedule of their final 21 regular-season games in just 39 days.
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Heinen was the first to admit his game hasn’t been where it needs to be, and perhaps watching for a night will get things back to where they need to be.
“I know my game is not where it needs to be right now. But I’ll keep working on it and I’m confident I can bust out of it,” said Heinen, who Is still tied for eighth in the NHL among rookies with his 39 points this season. “It’s not always watching a game from the outside, and get hungry to get back in there. The little details just aren’t there like when I was going [well]. I just need to tune those things up.”
Either way, it should be an interesting look for the Bruins with a couple of new faces in the lineup as they face a measuring stick opponent in the Penguins. Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Penguins based on morning skate: