BRIGHTON, Mass. — Practice was underway on Monday morning with a much bigger group of Bruins than it was over the weekend with most of the seven missing “unfit to participate” players from Saturday back with the full group.
But David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase were once again missing while still in the “unfit to participate” category with Pastrnak still in quarantine despite a negative COVID-19 test, and Kase’s status unconfirmed at this point.
The bottom line for the Bruins is that their top two right wings have missed the first week of Return to Play camp, and it’s still undetermined when either of them will return to practice.
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That means young players like Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Karson Kuhlman have been getting reps on the right side for all of training camp, and the Bruins have essentially had to function without both of their top-6 right wings while getting back up to full speed. While Bruins GM Don Sweeney didn’t sound upset or frustrated at the way things have played out for his team, he also readily admitted that it is clearly less than ideal.
“Any player that misses a day here [or there] it’s not a big deal. But when you start missing weeks on end — which we will end up having a couple of players in that category — you certainly have rust as a problem,” said Don Sweeney. “We do have some players that were skating quite a bit leading up to Phase 3, but the timing more than anything, the continuity of your linemates and the situations you have to work through as you go through practice, you’re hopefully going to have to get them up to full speed when you do have them back. And it’s in a shorter period of time.
It’s not ideal by any means, but it’s just what you have to deal with going forward. I think every team is probably going to have to face it at some point in time unless they’re incredibly fortunate. And good for them. We’re not in that situation and I can’t change that. All we can do is worry about the plan with what we have.
Sweeney said that both players were within their rights in Phase 2 to be working out at local rinks up until Monday of last week — as they were according to multiple witnesses — and that wasn’t something the Bruins were going to second-guess.
The big second guess with both Pastrnak and Kase is that they didn’t show up earlier from the Czech Republic to get through the necessary quarantine protocol that would have allowed them to begin practicing with the Bruins at the beginning of last week. If there is one area where the 24-year-old Pastrnak failed to be like the rest of his core Bruins group hellbent on winning a Stanley Cup, that would be it.
But it’s also widely agreed upon that it isn’t going to take very long for Pastrnak to regain the chemistry with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand after they have skated together on the Perfection Line for the last two seasons. There’s also plenty of continuity on Boston’s top power play unit, as Pastrnak led the NHL in power play goals this season.
Clearly his linemates aren’t worried.
“Pasta is going to be back for the playoffs, I’m not really looking too much into it,” said Marchand. “It doesn’t take long for chemistry to bounce back with us. Even when I’m going down [the ice] with [Anders Bjork] now and Bergy, we’re kind of looking [to pass] into the areas where Pasta normally sets up.”
The good news for Pastrnak, Kase and the Bruins is that the first three games in the Toronto hub city aren’t going to hold anything significant on the line as round-robin warm-up games, so the reality is they can be eased into the fold with very little on the line during the first week of play.
However as Sweeney alluded to, the situation is “not ideal by any means” and perhaps something that Pastrnak will learn from while the rest of his teammates are working on the ice and getting ready for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.