David Pastrnak doesn’t have to feel bad about putting his team in a tough spot anymore.
The Bruins put together a string of quality victories once Pastrnak slipped and broke his thumb following a team event in February. They extended their point streak from seven straight to 19 and went 12-3-1 without their co-leading goal scorer.
Of course, there’s some worry that Pastrnak may be rushing things following his return to practice on Monday. The Bruins did fairly fine without him as they created distance from the rest of the teams on the playoff bubble and leapfrogged the Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division standings.
But there’s no denying this: the Bruins are a better team with Pastrnak than they are without him. And the 2014 first rounder displayed his usual joyful mood after taking a full skate with his teammates for the first time since their 2-1 overtime victory over the Avalanche back on Feb. 10.
“It was a lot of fun obviously to be back out there with the guys,” Pastrnak said during his first interaction with the assembled Boston media in over a month. “These guys are your friends and family, you know, so it’s good to be back.”
Pastrnak’s impending return to game action gives the Bruins something to look forward to as they get another healthy body back in the lineup, perhaps as soon as Tuesday when they begin their four-game road trip in Long Island. The 2014 first rounder is looking forward to returning, but he’s also happy to put the event behind the injury in the rearview mirror.
“I was at dinner and on my way to the car and I slipped and I fell,” Pastrnak said. “It was unfortunate, you know, that I got hurt from it, and I was really upset. The last thing I wanted to do was for four weeks being in the gym and skating without a stick. Obviously, these things happen in life, and I just try to take this [as a lesson learned] and get better as a player.”
The mental part of the recovery is behind him. Pastrnak is back skating with a stick in hand and showed no signs of any significant dropoff with his shot and stickhandling during the team’s on-ice training session at Warrior Ice Arena.
He’ll support a splint on his thumb over the next few games — and perhaps throughout the rest of the season. But Pastrnak enters a good spot once he reunites with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the top line.
His spot with Marchand and Marchand wasn’t guaranteed. Some thought that Bruce Cassidy would slot him with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on the second line to give his team a little more balance across his four lines. In fact, Cassidy broke up that potent top unit and moved Danton Heinen up with Bergeron and Marchand as the team looked to spark their secondary scoring prior to the trade deadline.
The team’s recent string of injuries had Cassidy mixing and matching his lines. But the third-year Bruins bench boss has no qualms putting Pastrnak back with Bergeron and Marchand for the time being.
“That’s where he’s going to start,” Cassidy said. “It’s a comfort level for him, and then we’ll see. Let’s see how [Marcus] Johansson progresses. Assuming we stay healthy we may go with Krejci then we can look at a few different options. I like [Charlie] Coyle with Krejci and DeBrusk the other night. I thought they were very good. We know that Charlie has to fill our third line center role, but we’re taking it one game at a time until we get all of the pieces together.”
Cassidy may have those pieces back sooner rather than later. Johansson (lung contusion) — along with defensemen Torey Krug (concussion) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) — will travel with the team during their four-game trip.
The Bruins will work with what they have again come Tuesday with our without Pastrnak (gametime decision). Here’s a look at the line chart from Monday’s practice in Brighton.
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