Bruins

Riley Nash 'looking good' for likely Game 3 return

Riley Nash 'looking good' for likely Game 3 return

BOSTON – It looks like the Bruins could be getting Riley Nash back for Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night as they look to really put a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

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Nash missed the final five games of the regular season and the first two playoff games after catching a Torey Krug shot in the right ear that took 40-plus stitches to attach the ear that was hanging off, and then needed some additional time to calm down concussion-like symptoms that were also part of the injury. Nash has skated over the last handful of days with the Bruins at practice, and it sounds like he could finally be ready to get into his first playoff action centering Danton Heinen and David Backes on the third line. 

“Riley Nash is looking good, he’ll be a guy that could go into the lineup tomorrow,” said Bruce Cassidy, speaking to the media on a Sunday off/travel day for the Black and Gold. “I think Riley playing that center ice third spot, if he’s healthy then there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be in there. He’s been pretty much a constant for us all year.”

Nash posted career highs of 15 goals and 41 points along with a plus-16 rating this season while providing the Bruins with a higher offensive ceiling when he’s in the middle, as well as strong down-the-middle face-off and two-way play capabilities. Tommy Wingels skated again at Warrior Ice Arena on Sunday morning and could be healthy enough to be available, but it sounded like Nash rather than Wingels would be the guy definitely returning to the lineup. That would then allow Cassidy to return Noel Acciari to his customary spot on the fourth line, and really help the Bruins strengthen both of their bottom-6 lines. 

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Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Maple Leafs in Game 2 based on Cassidy’s Sunday comments: 

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

 

Rask

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Bruins' "Kid Line" starting to find their way at both ends

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AP Images

Bruins' "Kid Line" starting to find their way at both ends

BRIGHTON, Mass – Call it the “Kid Line”, the “a Danton, a Donato and a JFK Line” or just about anything else you want. Just also make sure you call them a young, eager trio looking to lock things down on a Bruins third line that’s been in flux all season. 

After struggling for most of the season, in their past three games, Danton Heinen has goals in two of them, Donato has a goal and three points and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has a couple of points while also managing a positive plus/minus rating. 

They have kicked in some supporting offense, played with speed and skill one would expect from their youthful backgrounds and give hope that the Bruins are going to eventually find some stability on that third line.

“[JFK] does want to pass first, and Ryan wants to shoot first. So they could end up being a good mix. They’re both young guys that should be comfortable with one another. Young guys come in and tend to want to appease the older guys first, so there shouldn’t be any of that,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Ryan has been tried on the second line and could slot in there again. JFK has always been looked at a little lower in the lineup.

“We’d like it to work out where they could play together, and so far they’ve had some moments. I like Danton’s accountability. He returns to the defensive zone quickly and puts things in order. I like Danton in that area no matter what line he’s on. He’s going to play it the right way. For him, it’s just a matter of where the best chemistry is to get his numbers up.”

If Donato, 22, JFK, 22, and Heinen, 23, can find some consistency, it would certainly take one thing off GM Don Sweeney’s checklist while looking for a veteran third-line center like rumored Minnesota target Charlie Coyle. It could also really give the B’s offense a nice, multi-faceted attack, particularly if both Donato and Heinen can find their best offensive game and Forsbacka Karlsson can give them the defensive balance any good line needs.

“[Heinen] is very dependable, and the same with JFK. It’s what he’s known for: Being a 200-foot player. And Danton does the right things that he’s asked to. So for me being on that line I just kind of learn from those guys,” said Donato. “But they’re also young guys, so it’s nice to have that feeling that you’re not the only young guys on the line. You’re not the only young on the ice reading that play.”

That’s certainly the nice thing about a “Kid Line.”

Will the Bruins be able to ride with a potential third line that only boasts one player with even one season of NHL experience?

It would seem to be a tall order, but the talent is clearly there at both ends of the ice. They’ll get a good test on Friday night in Pittsburgh when they’ll surely see plenty of Sidney Crosby & Co. with Pittsburgh getting the last change. That could begin to tell the tale as to whether Boston’s “Kid Line” will stand the test of time. 

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Bruins' Charlie McAvoy "hasn't missed a beat" since return from concussion

Bruins' Charlie McAvoy "hasn't missed a beat" since return from concussion

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy missed 20 games with a concussion, and he’s starting to make up for lost time.

He doesn’t have a point yet in the four games since returning in Tampa Bay last week, but he’s been his usual workhorse self while posting a plus-5 overall with four shots on net in those four games since coming back from injury. Even better, he’s averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game in that time and clearly given the Bruins a boost in the puck-moving department while scoring 3.5 goals per game after struggling to scrape together goals earlier in that stretch.

“I feel good. I think I came back with a little bit of rust, but since then I think I’ve come back and kind of taken off. I think I’m playing well in my own zone and trying to contribute when I can,” said McAvoy, who has a goal and six points along with a plus-6 in 11 games this season. “Fortunately our offense has been playing fairly well those left few games, so we didn’t really need to do much on the back end.

“It’s about being efficient and being smart, and not trying to look for anything more than the next right play has allowed me to feel like I haven’t missed a beat.”

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McAvoy has even taken a bad hit, the blind side shot that got Zach Hyman suspended for two games, and a high stick to the face, and kept right on playing his game. It’s those kinds of experiences that are giving McAvoy his confidence back, and show that he’s truly over the scary first-time experience with the concussion.

“Zero, which is what we were looking for,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if there was any hesitation in McAvoy’s game. “We were hoping he’d come back assertive and just play hockey. I think he’s been real good in that respect. The first night there was rust from not playing in terms of handling the puck and making the plays on time. He’d quickly got out of that.

“He obviously took a big hit from Hyman that was suspend-able, and he bounced back from that. I think he’s recovered really well.”     

Now the next step for McAvoy is to go beyond the good first pass and the kick-start to the transition game, and instead putting up some points on the back end. The Bruins sorely missed that in the 20 games while the 20-year-old was out of the lineup, and it’s only a matter of time before that returns for McAvoy too. 

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