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  • After skate cut, Mason Lohrei hopes to provide spark for wounded Bruins D

    Tim Rosenthal February 21, 2024

    For nearly two weeks, the Boston Bruins endured a stretch from bad to worse during their seven-game homestand. On Monday, they stopped the proverbial bleeding with a needed 4-3 shootout win over the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars.

    Behind Justin Brazeau’s storybook debut, David Pastrnak’s late tying marker and clutch moments from Charlie McAvoy and Jeremy Swayman in the ninth round of the shootout, the Bruins enter their four-game west coast trip with a bit of momentum. But they didn’t leave their President’s Day matinee entirely unscathed.

    With Hampus Lindholm exiting to injury during the third period, the cap-strapped Bruins needed some maneuvering to fill his defensive vacancy ahead of Wednesday’s road trip opener in Edmonton. On Tuesday, GM Don Sweeney placed Matthew Poitras on long-term injured reserve, thus barely freeing enough cap space to recall Mason Lohrei from Providence.

    Between injuries and inconsistent performances from Lindholm, Matt Grzelcyk, and Derek Forbort, the left side of Boston’s blue line became one of Boston’s Achilles’ heels. As a result, they’ve had to rush Lohrei’s development during his first professional season.

    The offensive-minded Lohrei showcased flashes of potential during his initial stints in Boston. While his defensive traits remain a tad raw, Lohrei provided plenty of upside within the Bruins’ transition game and attacking zone creativity.

    The Bruins expect Lohrei to pick up where he left off from his last callup. According to the lines from the morning skate, Lohrei will skate in a second-pairing role with Brandon Carlo and secure point duties on the secondary power play unit against Connor McDavid, Leon Draisail, and the uber-talented Oilers.

    “Both times he’s come up, he’s been really good for us coming up from Providence,” head coach Jim Montgomery told the media of Lohrei. “Our expectation is we know who he is. He’s a good hockey player who has helped us win a lot of hockey games this year and we expect him to do that tonight.”

    Heading into Wednesday, the Bruins rank 19th out of the 32-team NHL in goals among defensemen with 22. They also site tied for 25th in points with 106.

    Lohrei’s latest promotion provides the Bruins with that needed offensive element on the back end. But his third recall nearly didn’t happen.

    During his latest stint in Providence, Lohrei suffered a cut on his leg from a skate blade during the Baby B’s tilt in Charlotte on Feb. 3.

    Lohrei, who said he had 20 stitches to repair the cut on his leg, missed a couple of weeks before returning to the P-Bruins lineup on Feb. 16 in Bridgeport. The first-year pro tallied an assist two days later against Hartford.

    “I had a close one in Charlotte,” Lohrei recalled to the press of his injury. “Close, but it was alright. It could’ve been worse…”

    Ideally, after that near-scary development in Charlotte, the Bruins wouldn’t rush Lohrei back so soon into an NHL role. But the eye test and the stat lines suggest that Lohrei may have already outgrown the minor leagues.

    Before his injury, Lohrei compiled one of his best offensive stretches of the season with five assists in three games. Since Jan. 21, the Lousiana product averaged exactly a point per game over his recent seven-game stretch, notching a goal and six assists during that span.

    According to Cap Friendly, the Bruins have a mere $57,500 in deadline cap space. They also have little to no draft capital, a limited prospect pool and very few enticing options from the current roster to use as trade chips.

    Barring more salary creativity by Sweeney, the Bruins won’t likely acquire one of the marquee names on the market — like Noah Hanifin or Adam Henrique — to fill one of their defensive and center needs. Heck, they’d probably need to move cap space just to add a gritty presence on the fourth-line or bottom D-pairing.

    Any upgrades during this stretch run may have to come from within. With Lindholm week-to-week, a more confident Lohrei will get another look late in the season. And given his two prior stints with the big club, another step forward in his progression will only inch Lohrei closer to securing a full-time role in Boston.

    “The confidence is the biggest thing,” Lohrei added. “The only way to gain that is just by being at the level and playing well and continuing to gain trust from the coaches, and with that, within yourself, you gain more trust in yourself. I’m looking to do that and continue to do that and build…”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    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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