For the first time in almost four full months, Ondrej Kase will be in action with the Bruins.
“I’m so excited to be back,” Kase, who suffered a concussion in the second game of the regular season in a collision with the Devils’ Miles Wood, said Monday. “This one was so different. The hit wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t a big hit. [Wood] just hit a bad spot, which is why I think [the recovery] was so long.”
Kase admitted that this recovery did come with its up and downs, most notably feeling like he was ready to return about a month ago before suffering a setback just a few days later. But with two games to go, the 25-year-old feels as good as can be.
“I am ready, 100 percent,” Kase said.
And his return will come in a totally new role and with a new center, as he’ll skate on the right side of a fourth line with Jake DeBrusk on the left and deadline pickup Curtis Lazar in the middle. It’s a more speed-and-skill than grit-and-brawn fourth line for Bruce Cassidy’s squad, and one that has been thrown together with the hope of developing something.
“Let’s see how they look,” Cassidy said. “They’ve been kind of thrown together. DeBrusk and Kase have played together in the past in the playoffs, so there may be some chemistry. But we’ll see.”
Cassidy and the Bruins made it clear that they aren’t putting any new expectations or readjusting Kase’s style based on this role, nor do they believe they can after such a long layoff and with it being so late in the regular season, but that they simply want to see him get as close to game-ready as he can be with the postseason around the corner.
“[Kase] needs to go out and play and shake the rust off as quickly as possible if we have any chance of using him next week or this weekend whenever we start [the playoffs],” Cassidy said. “So the only message is keep your shifts short, things are gonna be happening fast around you, so play with your head up and try not to overdo it.
“Get back into the flow of playing hockey with bodies and people flying around you. You don’t get that in practice the same as you do in game. That’s the only message to him.”
Acquired from the Ducks last deadline, Kase has totaled five assists and 11 shots on goal in 19 total games with the Bruins.
With Kase back in action, Trent Frederic will sit as a healthy scratch, while Chris Wagner will move up to the right side of the third-line combination with Nick Ritchie and Sean Kuraly. (Charlie Coyle, injured in last week’s meeting with the Devils, will remain out of action, but the Bruins remain adamant that he’ll be ready for the postseason.)
B’s netminder Tuukka Rask, who will be the team’s No. 1 goalie when the playoffs begin, will get the start in the Boston net. Rask is in need of a bounce-back performance after Saturday’s 18-of-23 performance in net.
Rask and the B’s will certainly feel some playoff-esque pressure in this one, too, as a victory will lock the Bruins into the No. 3 seed and a first-round date with the Capitals. A loss, of course, opens the door for the Bruins to fall into the No. 4 seed and draw the East-best Penguins in the first round.
The Bruins are 2-3-2 against the Isles in 2021, but come into tonight’s game with two straight wins against New York.
Here’s the rest of the expected lineup for tonight’s contest…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Jake DeBrusk – Curtis Lazar – Ondrej Kase
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon – Kevan Miller
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.