Six Boston skaters (and a team staffer) landing in the league COVID protocol since Tuesday is not enough for the NHL to postpone Thursday’s showdown between the Bruins and Islanders, as it will be game on at Belmont Park’s UBS Arena.
And with the Bruins icing a lineup that looks a bit closer to September than December.
Up front, the Bruins will be without Patrice Bergeron, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, Brad Marchand, and Craig Smith. That will throw emergency recalls Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen into the Boston lineup, and Swedish wing Jesper Froden will make his NHL debut for the Bruins after he was recalled from Providence ahead of word of the team’s positive tests Thursday.
That will leave Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy with a first line that will feature Charlie Coyle between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak, while Jake DeBrusk will skate to the left of a second line with Studnicka at center and Steen on the right.
“Tonight, there’s an opportunity for a Jack Studnicka,” Cassidy said. “We would like to see him take some steps here and it’s an opportunity now without a centerman that plays a lot of minutes in the lineup. Steen has played well down there. So again, more of an opportunity [for him]. He’s not a left winger like Marchand, but he’s a right winger like Smith who’s played good hockey for us. And it’s been a bit of a numbers game for him when he’s gone down. So there is opportunity for those guys.”
Boston’s third line, meanwhile, will feature Tomas Nosek between Erik Haula and Nick Foligno, while the fourth line is currently slated to feature Froden on left wing with Curtis Lazar at center and Karson Kuhlman on the right wing.
Well, that’s something.
Now, based on what else was said over the course of Cassidy’s morning availability, nothing is set in stone when it comes to this lineup. Especially when you look at a third line made up of all lefties and a fourth line composed of all righties.
But with the Bruins currently in the midst of their worst COVID situation, at least from a pure bodies available standpoint, since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the expectation and opportunity extends beyond just the Providence recalls.
“Maybe some guys that have had uneven seasons [have a chance] to say, ‘Hey, you know what? I want to grab some of those minutes and help the team win.’ Whether that’s Foligno or Jake, [or] Haula,” Cassidy acknowledged. “Like I said, there’s opportunity for guys and that’s the ask not be Marchand and Bergeron, but just be yourself, try to be your best version of yourself and see if you can help us forward here. And other teams have gone through it. We’re no different, so it could be a time we look back on later in the year and say we really pushed through in this situation and help get us get us going.”
On the backend, Mike Reilly will rejoin the Boston lineup. That comes as a result of John Moore getting sent back down to the AHL for cap purposes with the Bruins needing to make extra calls down to Providence.
That will leave the Bruins with a defensive grouping that will see Derek Forbort stick with Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk skate with Brandon Carlo, and Reilly start to the left of Connor Clifton.
Linus Ullmark will get the call in net for the Bruins, and with Jeremy Swayman added to the COVID list Thursday, Ullmark will be backed up by Kyle Keyser. This is the first recall of Keyser’s pro career.
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.