The Boston Bruins returned to practice on Monday prepping for their 72nd postseason appearance in franchise history.
Among those still in town after the plethora of regular-season finale call-ups, was speedy and energetic rookie forward Karson Kuhlman. The Esko, Minnesota-born winger made a name for himself over his 11-game stint in the NHL.
Khulman made a good impression with the Bruins coaching staff following his performances late in the regular season. Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney echoed that trust during his press conference at Warrior Ice Arena.
“[Khulman’s] performed well. He has a history of playing his best hockey in crucial times. He has leadership qualities. and I don’t think he changes the way he plays regardless of the situation and that’s a benefit to him as well,” Sweeny said. “He knows what he strengths are and tries to play his role, which again coaches appreciate. When you have the ability to plug a player in and he doesn’t change, I think that is a benefit for all parties. He’s handled himself very well and has earned the opportunity to be here.”
Make no mistake about it, Kuhlman had to work for everything.
Almost a year ago to the day, the 23-year-old captained Minnesota-Duluth to National Championship victory over Notre Dame. Yet, Kuhlman had an uphill climb to nab a roster spot thanks to Boston’s tremendous depth at wing.
Kuhlman grinded his was through the AHL ranks, tallying 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 58 games with Providence. His performance with the Baby B’s led directly to his first career callup. He hasn’t looked back since.
“Yeah. I think I have a lot of confidence in myself and I know what I need to improve on with my game as well,” Khulman said about working his way to Boston. “I think I work hard in my game and like I said it’s a day by day process and just lucky to be here for sure. It’s been an awesome journey so far. Obviously so thankful to be here and just taking it day by day. And I’ve gotten a couple bounces on the way as well.”
Kuhlman will likely skate with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk if he indeed makes his postseason debut in Game 1 Thursday night. His skillset and high-motor playing style provide a tremendous fit for the two second line regulars.
David Pastrnak will remain on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, while Marcus Johansson will slide down and join Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen on line three. Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner would round out the Bruins’ forward bunch on the fourth line.
Kuhlman’s sits in a vital position. The Bruins have their marquee top line intact. A productive Kuhlman with Krejci and DeBrusk gives Bruce Cassidy an option to roll out all four lines. They’ll need that as another tough series with the Maple Leafs awaits.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity. Obviously, we’ve got a special group here and excited to take my part, whatever that might be down the stretch here,” Kuhlman added. “We just have to play our game, play our system. We have a great system in place and the players to make a run so it’s going to be an exciting first round.”
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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