Mired in another slump, Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy switched up some of his lines again during Monday’s practice. Anders Bjork highlighted Cassidy’s latest switcharoo, skating with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on the second line ahead of the mother’s trip to Nashville for Tuesday’s matchup with the Predators.
The third-year left-winger becomes the latest plug on the ongoing second line carousel. To accompany Bjork’s promotion, Cassidy moved Charlie Coyle to his natural center role on the third line and rotated DeBrusk from his strong side to his off-wing to Krejci’s right.
DeBrusk and Krejci, like the rest of the team, have struggled with consistency during this recent three-game skid. Bjork, with 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 38 games played this season, rarely saw top-six time since making the trip back up to Boston in late-October.
His stats aren’t anything to write home about, yet Bjork hasn’t looked out of place since arriving from Providence in the fall. He earned the trust of the coaching staff after developing a steady and confident mindset since his return to Boston.
“I think he’s earned the right to get extra minutes,” a raspy Cassidy said following practice Monday at Warrior Ice Arena. “He’s creating offense, but unfortunately [the scoring chances] aren’t going in for him as much as we’d like, but he’s in the right spots and doing the right things.”
The former Notre Dame standout already took a big step forward after injuries and inconsistent play plagued his first two professional hockey seasons. Now he hopes to take another big stride with his latest promotion.
He’ll get that chance come Tuesday with the Krejci-DeBrusk duo. Bjork noticed the chemistry from the two second-line commodities over the past few years. Now, the opportunistic winger hopes to compliment DeBrusk and Krejci’s skillset and build off of his solid string of outings this season.
“JD [DeBrusk’s] speed and Krejci’s slipperiness and ability to smoothly get by guys help create plays quickly,” Bjork told Bruins Daily. “They create plays rather quickly too, mainly the can puck pucks off the wall or right out of the neutral zone and slide by guys to create great opportunities. “I also want to create those opportunities for them and use my speed and quickness to disrupt things and create those chances.
“And honestly,” Bjork added, “if I’m playing with them and I have the puck I want to fire shots. Because [some of] their opportunities come from broken plays off of shots and rebounds; their skill takes over and they make a great play and it winds up in the back of the net.”
Bjork specifically worked on his shot during the off-season. He hasn’t been shy shooting the puck unlike his first two years, but the Bruins’ coaching staff still see some room for improvement in that area.
Cassidy acknowledged that area of improvement following Monday’s practice. He also noted a certain top-line winger who developed his shot under his watch both in Providence and Boston.
“His shot will have to improve. We saw that with Pasta [David Pastrnak] over time,” Cassidy said. “His skating is fine and his attack mentality is good. He’s starting to shoot more as opposed to beating guys 1-on-1, so that part of it is coming. But it’s probably that shot and his ability to beat goalies with that shot from a certain distance [that he needs to improve].”
Bjork may only have one shot with Krejci and DeBrusk. Shooting pucks on net — regardless of whether the puck finds the back of the net — will only help his cause in sticking on the second line, even if it’s only temporary.
“I think getting in position and using that shot focus will help,” Bjork said. “I’m pleased with where my shot is at right now, but there’s plenty of room to improve on that.”
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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