The Bruins continued to dodge the COVID bullet Monday, with winger Jake DeBrusk officially in for Monday’s head-to-head with the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
Ruled out of action Saturday due to COVID protocols, the 24-year-old DeBrusk was removed from the league’s COVID list Sunday, and the belief is that DeBrusk, like Charlie Coyle before him, had a false positive and needed multiple negatives before he was officially able to rejoin the team. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy by all means confirmed that it was a false positive, noting that the team’s only COVID struggles in 2021 have come via two false positives this season.
DeBrusk is coming off a Thursday night effort that was his best of the season, with a goal (his first five-on-five goal of the season), two hits, and two shots on goal in 15:48 of action. In his first game back in the lineup as a one-game break as a healthy scratch, there was a noticeable uptick in the fire in DeBrusk’s game, and with the usually-affable DeBrusk playing a more ‘pissed off’ game.
“I’m a pretty easy target at the moment,” DeBrusk, who noted that people seemed to think he was ‘kinda done’ in Boston, said after the win. “I mean, I understand the territory. It’s pretty much warranted. So I get that. But, yeah, I took it personally for sure. I mean, who wouldn’t? Any time that you get scratched, it stings. I’m beyond frustrated already and it just kind of was nice. It was a nice little reset for me because I knew I was coming in with some heat.”
The Bruins will hope for some more of that heat, too, with DeBrusk set to stay on the left side of a Boston second line with David Krejci at center, but with Craig Smith promoted to the right wing in place of Nick Ritchie. (That will move Ritchie down to the left wing of a third line with Coyle in the middle and Anders Bjork on the right.)
“We’ve moved some people around to hopefully re-energize them; not just Craig, but a number of our guys that we need to get back feeling good about their offensive game,” Cassidy said. “Let’s hope it starts tonight.”
The other change up front for the Bruins will come with the return of Karson Kuhlman to the Boston lineup.
Part of the team’s taxi squad recalls over the weekend, Kuhlman will skate in place of Chris Wagner on the Bruins’ fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Trent Frederic for his first NHL game since Feb. 28. Kuhlman has five shots and four hits in three NHL games this year, and has totaled three goals and a plus-6 rating in five games with Providence in 2021.
On the backend, Steven Kampfer will replace Urho Vaakanainen on the Black and Gold’s third pairing opposite Jarred Tinordi and jump into play for his second game of the season. Kampfer had two hits, a blocked shot, and a plus-1 rating in 15:27 of play in a Feb. 28 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Jaroslav Halak will remain in net for the Bruins for his fourth straight start as Tuukka Rask continues to work his way back from an undisclosed injury suffered eight days ago in a loss to the Devils.
The Bruins are 2-0-0 against the Penguins this season, but the Penguins enter play with wins in five straight, and have wins in 11 of 13 on home ice this season. The Bruins, meanwhile, have a six-game losing skid in Pittsburgh’s barn.
Here’s the complete lineup and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork
Trent Frederic – Sean Kuraly – Karson Kuhlman
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Connor Clifton
Jarred Tinordi – Steven Kampfer