If there was a silver lining to be found in David Krejci’s most recent absence, it came with the Bruins’ extended look at Jack Studnicka in his natural center position.
Given his first real run at center at the NHL level, the 22-year-old Studnicka’s recent four-game run included two assists, nine shots, a plus-3 rating, and wins in 17 of his 40 faceoffs. Given his inexperience at the position, as well as the opponents over that run, it’s hard to imagine the Bruins asking for more.
“We liked what he did,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Studnicka’s run down the middle. “He played very well. More noticeable in the middle of the ice than he was on the wing for obvious reasons, I think.”
And now, with Krejci expected to return Wednesday night against the Capitals, the Bruins are going to keep Studnicka in the lineup and at center. Just in a role that’s undoubtedly foreign to his skill set.
Spending Tuesday’s practice and Wednesday’s morning skate in the middle of the Black and Gold’s fourth line, with Sean Kuraly moved to the left wing and Chris Wagner on his right, the expectation is that the Studnicka-centered trio will indeed make up the Bruins’ fourth line.
“We’re still going to keep him in the middle,” Cassidy offered. “Is it ideal for Jack to be a fourth-line center? I don’t always like to number the center, so he’s got to play his game in the middle no matter what [and] no matter who his wingers are.”
The biggest difference for Studnicka is this role will certainly come down to usage.
And the Bruins know it.
“He might see different starts,” Cassidy admitted. “There might be more in his own end. He’s got Sean who can take faceoffs at the left dots. So this will be good for his defensive game as well. We’ll see how he adapts to it and and we’ll go accordingly [and see] if he can play with different style of players like a Wagner or [Anders] Bjork, Kuraly, whatever, as opposed to when he was with [Trent] Frederic and [Jake] DeBrusk.”
For additional context on how this usage will push Studnicka into potential sink-or-swim territory: Studnicka was on the ice for 17 offensive-zone faceoffs at five-on-five during his recent four-game run with the Big B’s. The Kuraly-Wagner combo, meanwhile, has been out for just 17 five-on-five o-zone draws all season.
Studnicka has a goal and two helpers in 10 games this year, and has one goal and four points in 12 NHL games since the start of the 2019-20 season.