By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins center David Krejci will have two old friends on his wings for Wednesday’s round-robin contest against the Lightning, with Nick Ritchie and Karson Kuhlman expected to replace Jake DeBrusk and Jack Studnicka, according to B’s coach Bruce Cassidy.
“Ritchie goes in, he’s gonna play with Krejci and probably Kuhlman on the right,” Cassidy said following Tuesday’s practice. “Now we may move those wingers around in-game, but that’s how we’re gonna start it. That’s how they practiced [Tuesday].”
It’s just the latest tweak to a forward group still looking to get their timing down after back-to-back teeth-pulls, and ultimately figure out what works ahead of the true start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It also comes with some definite familiarity for Krejci.
Acquired from the Ducks at the deadline, Ritchie has spent 71 of his 89 minutes and change in a Boston uniform with Krejci. It hasn’t been a perfect fit thus far, with the Bruins have lost the possession battle, been outshot 39-34, and outscored 3-1 over that 71-minute sample. But it has the basis of what the Bruins always want for Krejci: a big body to open ice up for his passing game.
Ritchie’s move to Krejci’s left also comes with Cassidy knowing that he can’t wait on the DeBrusk-Krejci combo, which hasn’t clicked this year for whatever reason, to get going in such a rapid-fire setup.
“Jake and David have to develop chemistry and they have to start getting some results if we’re going to keep them together,” Cassidy admitted. “If not, then Charlie Coyle will play with Jake. In this case, Ritchie or Bjork down the road if we think he’s a better fit with Krech. That’s what we’re trying to get done in a short period of time here.
“We don’t want to over analyze one particular game but that’s where we’re at. We have to do that to a specific extent and watch in practice as well. They’ve got to put the onus on themselves to get going as individuals and hopefully as a pair they’ll recreate some of what they were able to do”
And to Krejci’s right, it’s a reunion with Kuhlman, his right winger from the final two games of last year’s Stanley Cup Final.
The reality is that Kuhlman is almost certain a mere placeholder for Ondrej Kase, who is ramping up his on-ice activities with the hopes of suiting up for Sunday’s round-robin finale, and Cassidy seemed to hint at that when discussing the position.
“The trade was made for that purpose originally: to see how [Kase] would fit with Krejci,” Cassidy acknowledged. “We know we can drop [David Pastrnak] down, but then who goes up? It would be nice if Ondrej and David got some chemistry; a guy that likes to make plays to a guy that likes to shoot. They can work one-timers because they shoot the same way if they pop open in certain spots.
“Krejci’s always worked well with a right stick.”
But Kuhlman may be the club’s second-best option to Krejci’s right, all things considered, as this duo has been on the ice together for over 324 minutes of five-on-five play since the start of last season. The Bruins have outshot their opponents 198-147 (plus-51 shot differential) and outscored them 14-6 (plus-8 goal differential) in Krejci-Kuhlman’s time together.
The B’s gave Kuhlman a brief run with Krejci in Sunday’s loss to the Flyers, too, with the 5-foot-11 beginning the third-period rotation next to Krejci and DeBrusk.
Overall, the Minnesota-born wing has totaled five goals and 14 points in 45 career NHL games.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.