Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk graduated from red no-contact jerseys to regular practice sweaters on Friday. Now with a day of contact behind them, the pair of defensemen await their return to the Bruins’ lineup during their last set of back to backs this season (at home against Florida Saturday and on the road in Detroit on Sunday).
Both Miller and Grzeclyk sustained upper-body injuries over the last month. But, as has been the case during their three-month stretch, the Bruins didn’t miss a beat without them.
But Miller’s physical prowess and Grzelcyk’s development into a well-rounded two-way D-man gives the Bruins some added depth on the back end. Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff could use both as the Black and Gold inch closer toward securing home ice in their inevitable first round matchup with the Maple Leafs. They’ll know more about their status before Saturday’s matinee with the Panthers.
“We’ll make those determinations in the morning,” Cassidy said following Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “But Gryz [Gryzlyck] looks like he’s a day ahead of Miller. So game-time decision tomorrow, but I’d say realistically Gryz will be in tomorrow and Miller on Sunday.”
Matt Grzelcyk sustained an upper body injury in Pittsburgh on March 8. (Photo: Amy O’Brien, Bruins Daily)
Getting Miller and Grzelcyk back means one person has to be the odd man out. All odds point to Connor Clifton heading back to Providence when they both return.
The former Quinnipiac star is making his case to stay in Boston after stringing together solid performances since his second recall from Providence. He’s rarely had a bad shift during his 17-18 minutes of average ice time in his second stint in Boston. Yet the nature of the business might send him back down I-95 South in time to help the P-Bruins for their fight for the final playoff spot in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
“They’ve got a lot of injuries right now, so I just want to fill in where I can and help the team win,” Clifton said about his recent callup prior to Monday’s 5-4 loss in Tampa. “Obviously I don’t have much experience in the NHL, so you just want to come in and play the best you can. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it so far.”
Marcus Johansson moves up to top line role
Marcus Johansson could have new linemates again when the Bruins faceoff against the Panthers on Saturday. (Angela Spagna, Bruins Daily)
Cassidy is never shy pulling the trigger on lineup changes at a moment’s notice. He did that again during Wednesday’s 6-3 victory over the Rangers.
The third-year Bruins bench boss tinkered with his lines again at practice. Marcus Johansson moved up to the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, while David Pastrnak reunited with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk during Friday’s on-ice session in Brighton.
Johansson returned Wednesday after missing 10 games with a lung contusion. He’s skated in five contests since coming over from New Jersey at the trade deadline. Cassidy admittedly wants the veteran to skate with fellow trade deadline addition Charlie Coyle down the road.
But keeping Pastrnak with Krejci and DeBrusk — on the heels of his five-point night against the Rangers — opened up a spot with Marchand and Bergeron. Danton Heinen skated with the potent Marchand-Bergeron duo as Pastrnak nursed a broken thumb, but Cassidy also likes the former University of Denver product in a third line role.
Thus, it all falls into place. Johansson, still working on his timing and adjusting to a new system, gets a chance with Marchand and Bergeron. But what can the veteran bring to the table if he plays on his opposite wing along with the potent duo?
“Well he’s got playmaking ability and finishing ability,” Cassidy said about Johansson.
“We haven’t seen the best of Marcus yet, for obvious reasons. He’s been moved around, he’s been injured. We tried him [with Bergeron and Marchand] today because Pasta [Pastrnak] did a nice job with Krejci and DeBrusk — it’s something we talked about doing for a long time this year. I always found Danton’s best work is on that third line so Marcus kind of almost fell into that. He is still on his off side, which I’m not sure is ideal. But someone does have to play their off side unless we start messing with our fourth line [of Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and David Backes].”
Projected lineup vs. Panthers
Tuukka Rask gets the nod in the second to last home game of the year. Jaroslav Halak will start Sunday in Detroit. Here’s a look at the projected lineup for Saturday’s tilt against the Panthers:
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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