The Boston Bruins sit at a robust 8-1-2 heading into their matchup with the Rangers. Bruce Cassidy’s red-hot bunch will likely have some reinforcements come Wednesday night in New York.
Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk rejoined their teammates at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday after the two sustained lower-body injuries during Boston’s last home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both resumed skating activities as the team strung off four consecutive come-from-behind victories.
DeBrusk and Grzelcyk watched from the improbable wins over the Flyers and Capitals from home. Now they’re eager to jump back into the lineup.
“You just want to be back with the team. I know it’s really exciting to play in those games, and I was really excited watching it on TV and really happy to see everyone’s hard work pay off and have the success we’ve had so far,” Grzelcyk said during Monday’s Zoom call with the media. “You get a little riled up even though you’re watching it on NESN on the couch, but it’s been good. Everything is positive. Everyone is contributing, and I think that’s a really good part of the wins we’ve been able to come back in.”
The pair of young talents didn’t have any setbacks in their return to practice. Both expect to return to the lineup on Wednesday barring any unforseen developments.
That left Cassidy with some tough lineup decisions with tight-knit group. Barring any setbacks, Anton Blidh and Connor Clifton will likely sit in the stands. The latter provided Cassidy’s toughest choice following a stellar outing Friday night in Philadelphia.
“The good news is the guys on the left side have been solid. So there’s been no discussion that says ‘they’re not ready,’ ‘they can’t handle it,’ or ‘they’re regressing,'” Cassidy said regarding his evaluations on Clifton and the defensive unit.
“It’s no fun, but [Clifton] is a good guy — as is John Moore — so it makes my job easier. And I’m thankful for that and grateful. We have a lot of guys like that, which makes it a great locker room. He just has to stay ready. That’s usually the message to him, and I told him he might go in on the left side, or it might be the right side. In this case, it happened to be the left side. He took some reps over there, and he did a good job for us. So it’s a good problem to have, to be honest with you.”
For six games, the well-liked Clifton took Grzelcyk’s spot with Brandon Carlo on Boston’s second defensive pairing. The Charlestown native returned to his usual spot next to Carlo on Monday.
DeBrusk, a fixture with David Krejci on the second line over the past few seasons, found himself with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork on the third line. This isn’t a demotion per se — even with Nick Ritchie and Craig Smith performing well with Krejci. Instead, it’s a chance for DeBrusk to showcase his versatility moving back to the left side, with a little familiarity from previous outings skating with Bjork and Coyle.
“I’ve played with both CC [Coyle] and Bjorkie — he usually played with me when I was with Krech [Krejci] for here and there in spurts. I’ve played with CC toward the end of last year, and I kind of have some familiarity with him,” DeBrusk said. “It’s one of those interesting years where chemistry takes time, and I feel we’ve had lots of times to practice together.”
Cassidy rarely hesitates to tinker his lineup. He has an adaptable group eager to contribute no matter who they’re skating with.
DeBrusk provided offensive production on Krejci’s left side for a few years. Earlier this year, he skated with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron in David Pastrnak’s absence. Now he finds himself with Coyle and Bjork. And while Grzelcyk returned to his usual spot with Carlo, the Charlestown native showcased his versatility in the past skating with the likes of Clifton and Kevan Miller.
A returning DeBrusk and Grzelcyk provide versatility with Cassidy’s four forward trios and three defensive pairs. That ‘next man up’ philosophy will only help Boston’s cause in the long run.
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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