As injuries have repeatedly tested their depth two months into the rapid-fire 2021 season, the Bruins and head coach Bruce Cassidy have done whatever they can to ice a six-man defensive unit every night.
From picking up then-Predator Jarred Tinordi off waivers to throwing the 5-foot-8 Jack Ahcan into action for his NHL debut after just 12 games in the minors, the Bruins have tinkered with just about every possible combination on their blue line. Considering that they were at one point without five regulars on the backend, that’s just called survival.
But the good news for Cassidy is that much-needed help, who also goes by Jeremy Lauzon in this case, is almost here.
Out of action since suffering a fractured hand in his first shift of a Feb. 21 win over the Flyers at Lake Tahoe, the 23-year-old Lauzon is a month into his four-to-six week recovery, and has been on the ice for both of the Bruins’ practices this week.
With Lauzon practicing without any sort of limitations or a red sweater, the next step is an obvious one.
“Very close to [Lauzon] playing,” Cassidy said after Friday’s practice at TD Garden. “He just needs reps, I guess, right now with his hand. Make sure he handles pucks and comfortable with handling pucks. So he’s very, very close.”
The greatest obstacle in Lauzon’s way when it comes to those reps is indeed the B’s schedule, which doesn’t lighten any this weekend, with a 1 p.m. meeting with the Sabres set for Saturday before a 5:30 p.m. puck-drop with the Devils on Sunday.
“Tough to get him in regular practices now because we just don’t have that many,” said Cassidy. “We had one [Friday], obviously play [Saturday] and Sunday. There’ll be no pregame skate [Saturday]. There’s an opportunity to be a little more game-time Sunday [but] there won’t be a pregame skate, there will be injured skate. So it’s a little tougher for him to find what he needs right now with the frequency of our games in our schedule. So we’ll have to monitor that.”
With pregame reps by all means impossible on Saturday, Lauzon’s return to the Boston lineup will have to wait at least another day. But the positive is that the Bruins are now looking at days opposed to weeks when it comes to his comeback.
“He is very close to be playing, so we’ll list him as day-to-day,” Cassidy said.