The Bruins were delivered a late-season surprise Friday, as winger Ondrej Kase was on the ice for a full practice with the team.
Considered the Black and Gold’s wild card at this point, with the team outright saying that anything they can get from the 25-year-old wing in 2021 would be considered a bonus, the practice was Kase’s first full work with the B’s in almost four full months, with Kase out since suffering an upper-body injury in a collision with Miles Wood in the second game of the season.
So, could that wild card make its way into the Boston lineup at some point over the final three games of the 2021 slate?
“There’s a chance once he’s in contact,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Friday. “This was some of his first real [contact]. It wasn’t full-blown, middle of the year practice, but there was some jostling out there, some battling. So let’s see how he feels tomorrow. He won’t go in [Saturday], but if there’s no ill effects, that really ups his chances for Monday or Tuesday.”
A return on either Monday or Tuesday would mean that Kase would be back in action after missing 53 or 54 straight games due to concussion woes, and would give the Bruins a potentially consequence-free look at Kase before the year’s end. The only problem (other than the obvious timeline issues) comes with the fact that those games could mean something, with the Bruins and the rest of the division still jockeying for postseason seeding entering the final weekend (and change) of the year.
“That’ll depend where we are, what’s the best fit for us, and then is he ready and what’s best for him as well? We’ll try to merge those two,” Cassidy noted. “I’ve always said, if he’s in a normal-colored jersey in practice [and] going through what everyone else is, then that’s typically the last hurdle for guys to get into the lineup in terms of their process of practicing.”
If in the lineup between now and the end of the regular season, the plan for Kase remains in the air. If the game means anything and they want to see him, it seems likely that Kase slides in to the right of a Jake DeBrusk and Curtis Lazar line, or with Nick Ritchie and Sean Kuraly on Boston’s third line. (Charlie Coyle’s availability could throw a wrench in plans for the latter.) Or if the Bruins’ postseason spot in the East bracket is set, the Bruins could want to see Kase into an elevated spot where he’s stepping in for a player being given the night off for health purposes, be it a David Pastrnak or Craig Smith.
But no matter the potential fit, the Bruins, who have about a billion forwards at their disposal already, really want to see at least one game with Kase back in action before the start of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“We would like to see him if he does get cleared,” Cassidy admitted. “It’s been a long time. Lot of catching up to do, but it’s still nice to know what is available to you should we need to put him the lineup in the playoffs at some point.”
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.