With superstar wing David Pastrnak pulled away from the Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand combination and replaced by Jake DeBrusk in every skate this week, Pastrnak will begin Thursday’s contest with the Devils on the right side of a second line with Nick Ritchie and David Krejci.
But the changes didn’t stop at the first and second lines for Bruce Cassidy’s squad.
In fact, the switches up top will lead to a reunion of a trio that’s been Boston’s best third line in 2021, with center Charlie Coyle expected to skate between Trent Frederic and Craig Smith.
Smith, Boston’s big free agent addition this offseason, began his Boston tenure as Coyle’s shoot-happy right wing, and it’s obviously that it’s where the Bruins would like to keep him when 100 percent. There’s no doubt that Coyle, who has gone without a point in seven straight games and is trapped in what’s undeniably his coldest stretch since coming to Boston in 2019, could use that kind of presence.
And Frederic, who has done a tremendous job of driving to the net and drawing power-play opportunities (Frederic’s 2.48 penalties drawn per 60 minutes of five-on-five play is the sixth-highest number in the NHL), has been at his most effective offensively when riding with this tandem.
The Frederic-Coyle-Smith line nearly teams up for another goal. pic.twitter.com/RnKOrzoHal— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 27, 2021
Frederic’s move to that line gives it its original look, too, with Ritchie originally pegged as the line’s heavier presence before injuries and inconsistencies moved him up to Boston’s second line.
Together for almost 42 minutes this year, the Frederic-Coyle-Smith trio has out-attempted opponents 46-30 (60.5 CF%), outshot them 26-16, and most importantly, outscored ’em by a 2-0 mark.
“We just read off each other pretty well,” said Coyle. “We had a couple of good games there. We found the score sheet. We had some good shifts, and I don’t think we gave up a whole lot [defensively].”
The B’s will need all the extra defensive help they can get in this one, too, with both Matt Grzelcyk and Jakub Zboril ruled out of this contest (as well as Sunday’s game in Lake Tahoe). That’ll keep John Moore in action for his second straight contest, and throw Connor Clifton back into the mix as well.
Jaroslav Halak will get the start in the Boston net. Halak stopped all 21 shots faced in a Feb. 12 shutout win over the Rangers, and comes into action with a 4-0-1 record and .938 save percentage in five starts this season. Halak stopped 29-of-31 in an overtime loss in N.J. back on Jan. 16.
The Bruins are 1-0-1 against the Devils in 2021.
Here are the complete lines and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – David Pastrnak
Trent Frederic – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Anders Bjork – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Jeremy Lauzon – Charlie McAvoy
John Moore – Brandon Carlo
Connor Clifton – Kevan Miller