The Boston Bruins will be down a defenseman for Monday night’s homestand finale against the visiting Anaheim Ducks, with Matt Grzelcyk officially ruled out of play.
“Won’t play tonight,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed. “He’s in today getting treatment, so we’ll list him as day-to-day for now until we hear differently, but definitely out tonight.”
Grzelcyk’s downgrade comes after the 5-foot-9 defender was hammered into the boards by the Jets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois in the first period of Saturday’s win at TD Garden. The hit left Grzelcyk in a heap to the left of the Boston net, and though he quickly made his way down the tunnel when he got to his feet, he did return to the game for the second period and didn’t miss a shift for the remainder of the contest. The Bruins didn’t seem to anticipate any ill effects entering the next week, for what it’s worth, but Monday came with that downer of an update regarding the team’s top left-side option.
Matt Grzelcyk is hit into the boards by Dubois and is in some serious pain.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 22, 2022
He heads down the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/jAuzcaA1op
Grzelcyk’s injury couldn’t come at a worse time, as he’s seemingly found his offensive groove of late, with one goal and seven assists in his last five games.
The good news for the Bruins is that help is on the way, with Mike Reilly, who has missed the last three games, officially activated out of the NHL’s COVID protocols Monday. Reilly will look to regain the momentum he showed in his last outing, with a sweet goal and an efficient 21:10 of time on ice in a big-time win over the Predators over a week ago.
Reilly will jump right back into his normal spot opposite Brandon Carlo on Boston’s second pairing.
The Bruins will also bump Urho Vaakanainen up to Grzelcyk’s spot opposite Charlie McAvoy on the Black and Gold’s top pairing, which will continue the team’s deep-dive on the 2017 first-round pick’s ceiling for this year’s team.
“I still think there’s lots more evaluation to be done, but I guess it’s been now a couple of weeks where he’s played against good players every night, contributed on the penalty kill now that we’ve got going well, and [been] a little more aggressive,” Cassidy said of Vaakanainen. “I think he’s done a really good job for us at what he was drafted to do or what was on his resume when he first got here.
“I would say we’re pleased with the way he’s played. He’s helped us win hockey games, doing what we feel he does best, and that’s all we can ask, right?”
Tuukka Rask will get the start in net for the Bruins. The 34-year-old Rask finished strong for his second win of the season last Saturday, with 22 saves on 24 shots faced, but comes into action with some pretty ugly career totals against Anaheim, with one victory and an .865 save percentage in eight career decisions against the Ducks.
The Ducks are expected to counter with John Gibson.
Gibson has looked real strong since coming off the COVID list last week, too, with a 1-1-0 record and saves on all but two of the 60 shots he’s faced from the Avalanche and Lightning (a .967 save percentage).
This will be the first head-to-head between the Bruins and Ducks since Oct. 14, 2019.