By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It took nearly five and a half months, but the Boston Bruins will finally have their ideal second line together and in action, as Ondrej Kase will join David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk for Sunday's round-robin contest against the Capitals.
And you could probably hear Bruce Cassidy's "finally" from outside the bubble.
"Something that we had planned to do a long time ago [but] just has not worked out," Cassidy said of the line after Saturday's practice. "Hopefully they’re both healthy at puck drop. They all look good, so that should take care of that."
The hope is that Kase, who was given a strong vote of confidence from Cassidy after Friday's session, will be that line's shooting threat. Or hammer pucks on goal with the frequency he did during his Anaheim run, at the very least, as the 24-year-old Czech arrived to Boston averaging 10.38 shots per 60 at five-on-five in 49 games with the Ducks this season. That really wasn't the case during Kase's brief six-game pre-pandemic run in Boston, really, with just nine shots in six appearances.
With Kase in, Karson Kuhlman will sit as Boston's healthy scratch from the middle-six forward group. Kuhlman had five shots on goal and five hits in 25:19 of ice-time during his two-game round-robin run.
Kase's return will also bump Nick Ritchie down to the third line, where he'll join the Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork combo. To accommodate Ritchie, the left-shot Bjork will move over to Coyle's right.
There will be one change on Boston's backend, too, with Connor Clifton set to draw into his first contest of the bubble. That will come with an off-day for third-pairing dynamo Matt Grzelcyk, putting Clifton with Jeremy Lauzon.
"We’re going to give [Grzelcyk] a maintenance game off, [and] that will allow Clifton to now play a game," Cassidy noted. "Johnny Moore played an exhibition game, so did [Par] Lindholm. [Kuhlman] played a couple. Basically every guy that may get in over time that’s kind of our original depth, will have now at least played a game. So, not ideal for the Cliftons and the Moores and the Lindholms, but that’s the way we have approached it."
Clifton, who played in just one game in 2020 prior to the pandemic (Mar. 10 against the Flyers), totaled two goals, along with 90 hits and 33 blocked shots, in 31 appearances for the B's this season.
In net, Tuukka Rask will get the start after stopping 32-of-35 in Wednesday's loss to the Lightning. The plan is for Rask, who missed the first round-robin game due to a cough that put him in quarantine, to play the entire game. But that could change depending on how the game unfolds, according to Cassidy.
The winner of this contest will finish in the No. 3 seed in the round-robin and draw the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the loser will square off with the Carolina Hurricanes as the East's No. 4 seed.
The Bruins beat the Capitals, 7-3, in their last meeting. But that was about a million years ago (Dec. 23 at TD Garden).
Here's the complete lineup for the Bruins...
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie - Charlie Coyle - Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon - Connor Clifton
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.