Bruins

Struggling Bjork may take a seat vs. Rangers

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Struggling Bjork may take a seat vs. Rangers

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s normally a sequence of peaks and valleys for rookies in their first foray through the NHL and Anders Bjork is definitely in one of those lower points right now. 

Bjork, 21, registered a season-low 6:47 of ice time in the Bruins 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at TD Garden and was benched for portions of the second and third period after looking pretty timid throughout the game.

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Bjork has just a single point and two shots on net in his past six games since returning from an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion. It's been an extremely quiet period for a player expected to make a top-six forward impact. It’s all trending toward a potential healthy scratch for Bjork on Saturday against the New York Rangers with a healthy Ryan Spooner potentially taking over for him on David Krejci’s left side.

“We’ll make the decision tomorrow, but [a Bjork scratch] is definitely a possibility and something we’ve discussed,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I just find that he’s not as strong on the puck as he was at the start of the year, or as quick to create turnovers. There are parts of his game that are always going to be worked on, like his play away from the puck.

“But the issue right now is being strong on pucks. The goal [Washington] they scored the other night is a good example. We make a play through the middle of the ice tape-to-tape, he’s in the crease and he’s not able to handle a puck. They’re coming back at us while we’re thinking we’re on offense. There were breakdowns after that clearly, but that’s an area [that needs improving]. Just before Charlie [McAvoy’s] penalty, we’re on a draw and [Bjork] gets pushed off a puck that comes back on us and we get beat up ice. Some of it is plays where he needs to be better, and some of it is where he’s at in his career where other guys are just stronger.”

Perhaps some of Bjork’s hesitancy is also an after-effect of getting tattooed in the middle of the ice by Tampa Bay's Matt Martin in a play that knocked him out of the lineup for a few weeks. Coping with the immediacy of those kinds of hits is part of life in pro hockey for a young player. It's a considerable adjustment when going straight from college hockey to the NHL.

Bjork knows that he hasn’t been a high-impact player since returning from injury and hasn’t really utilized his greatest offensive assets, speed and skill.  It may not matter much if Bjork watches Saturday from the ninth floor of the Garden as a healthy scratch, but he has a plan to get his game back on track when he does get his next opportunity for the Black and Gold.

“I think it’s mainly a confidence thing. I have to use [my speed] and it’s on me if I don’t,” said Bjork, who has four goals and 10 points in 22 games this season. “I think I just have to have that confidence every shift, so I can avoid the mistakes. There are bounces good and bad in hockey, but you create your own luck sometimes. You do that by playing the right way, and when things aren’t going your way you need to get back to basics of making things simple. That’s what I need to focus on: Making the simple plays and doing the details right.”

A healthy scratch was exactly the right thing to spark fellow rookie Jake DeBrusk when he was scuffling a bit last month, so perhaps the same plan of attack for Bjork to unlock his game while on a pace for 14 goals and 34 points this season. 

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Bruins call up Peter Cehlarik, could give him look on Krejci line

Bruins call up Peter Cehlarik, could give him look on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – After a night where Bruce Cassidy was mixing and matching forwards to try and find something workable on the second and third lines, the Bruins will turn to another young option on the wing. The Bruins called up Slovakian winger Peter Cehlarik on Tuesday and the big winger practiced with David Krejci and David Pastrnak while Brad Marchand (maintenance), Patrice Bergeron (maintenance), Jake DeBrusk (lower body) and Chris Wagner (under the weather) were missing from the practice ice at Warrior Ice Arena.

The 23-year-old Cehlarik has been on a scoring tear with the Providence Bruins, and has put together a solid season with 10 goals and 29 points in 37 AHL games while pushing for another look at the NHL level. Cehlarik had a strong training camp before falling short of making the big club while other young wingers like Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato ended up breaking camp with the team.

After switching all of those young wingers around looking for a permanent top-6 winger for the Krejci line and giving David Backes a chance over the last few games, now it’s going to be Cehlarik’s turn after waiting a half-season for it.

“The Cehlarik [move] is just a tweak of a guy playing really well in Providence that could fill that spot with Krejci,” said Bruce Cassidy, who pointed out puck management as the biggest area he’s needed to work on during his past call-ups with the Bruins. “So we’ll probably look at that, but other than that we don’t want to blow everything up [with our line combinations].”

Cehlarik has a total of a goal and four points in 17 NHL games with the Bruins over the last few years, and seems to be well aware that now is the time for him if he’s going to carve out a niche for himself in Boston. He’s expected to start aside Krejci on the second line, and that should give him a chance to succeed if he’s going to in his third stint with the B’s in three seasons.

“You work your way back, and think about what you need to do to get back up here. I’m good to go now and I’m ready to go. There are things you need to do in order to stick around, you know?” said Cehlarik. “I need to be more consistent and stay healthy, and I think I’m in the right direction. I’m happy and excited to be here.

“Krejci wants to play with the puck and I love that. I love to play in the O-zone with the puck positioning, and trying to make plays. I really enjoyed my first year when we played a couple of games together. But it’s a new year and a new chance, and I want to be better than I was before.”

Perhaps the Bruins can strike lighting with Cehlarik, who is a bit of a different profile than Boston’s other young forwards with his 6-foot-2 frame, strong puck possession skills, and size/strength qualities to play a little more of the power forward game. But in all likelihood this is just the Bruins running through another organizational option before they need to turn outside the team for a trade solution to what’s been a roster issue for the last couple of seasons.  

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Bruins may target Blues' Brayden Schenn or Vladimir Tarasenko in trade

Bruins may target Blues' Brayden Schenn or Vladimir Tarasenko in trade

BOSTON -- Perhaps some of it was because the Bruins will be hosting their team at TD Garden on Thursday night. Perhaps some of it was about their scouting the Montreal Canadiens.

But whatever the reason, the St. Louis Blues had a group of talent evaluators at TD Garden Monday night for the Bruins-Canadiens game – vice president of hockey operations Dave Taylor, assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Billy Armstrong, and pro scout Kevin McDonald –- while the Bruins scouting staff has spent the last few days meeting in Boston as well.

Certainly the Blues -- second-to-last in the Western Conference and certain to be sellers at the trade deadline -- could be looking at both Bruins and Habs players, since both Boston and Montreal are jockeying for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. St. Louis is expected to make a number of veterans available ahead of the deadline, and several hockey sources say forward Brayden Schenn is someone who interests the Bruins. But perhaps the B's are aiming even higher, with Vladimir Tarasenko rumored to be available.

Schenn would undoubtedly be a versatile, rugged fit for the Bruins as a center coming off a career-high 28 goals and 70 points last season. He’s also a hard-nosed type who could add size, strength and versatility to Boston’s forward group.

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Tarasenko, on the other hand, would be a home run for any NHL team. He hasn’t scored fewer than 33 goals or 66 points in any of the last four seasons and would be the kind of game-breaker who could transform Boston’s second line into a bona-fide weapon. He'd immediately make the Bruins a much more serious contender.

It was apparent once again in Monday night’s loss that the B’s still are in need of another top-6 offensive forward. Despite Bruce Cassidy mixing and matching players on the second and third lines, the team still managed to scrape up only two goals on 43 shots.

The coach admitted after the loss he’s trying to find some high-performing forwards to pair with a motivated David Krejci, who has scored goals in three straight games and is poised for a big second half if the Bruins can provide him with wingers who'll finish off plays.

“I think [Krejci] has played really good hockey for us this year, whoever’s been on his wings, so you don’t want to lose him if, say, his linemates aren’t going well,” said Cassidy. “So we mix someone else in there. Then you get behind and you think, well, maybe you have to use [a] more offensive-minded [player], say [Ryan] Donato, who’s scored some goals, who . . . when [he] gets a chance can bury it.

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“It’s a bit of the thought process in there. And then if we feel like a guy’s just not committed, then that’s a message usually to a younger guy.”

Both Schenn and Tarasenko are signed beyond this season and thus would cost far more in trade assets than a rental. It remains to be seen what St. Louis would be looking for, beyond perhaps a first-round pick and B's prospect (and St. Louis native) Trent Frederic. It would make sense that either Torey Krug or Matt Grzelcyk could be available, as Urho Vaakanainen doesn’t appear too far away from regular duty in the NHL after a promising performance for Team Finland at the World Junior tournament.

We'll see if Bruins GM Don Sweeney changes course a little bit this season and gets aggressive with an early deal ahead of the rush at the deadline. But the big Blues presence is a sign they’re at least taking a closer look at an awfully big, and needed, upgrade.

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