Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Oct. 3, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Mason Lohrei (6) gets set for a face-off during overtime against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Sent to the minors on Nov. 25, it took less than two weeks for the Bruins’ top defensive prospect, Mason Lohrei, to find himself back in Boston for another NHL run with Jim Montgomery’s squad.

But this latest recall has to do more with the Black and Gold’s latest loss from the backend, with Derek Forbort moved to the long-term injured reserve due to a lower-body ailment that’s limited Forbort all season long.

  • Nov 22, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Derek Forbort (28) and goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) celebrate after winning the game against the Florida Panthers at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 22, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Derek Forbort (28) and goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) celebrate after winning the game against the Florida Panthers at Amerant Bank Arena. (Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports)

    “I think at one point we gave [Forbort] five days off and it was doing well, but [with] the nine games in 16 days, just the repetitive demands on the body, it’s come back,” Montgomery said following the B’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “We’re going to give him a little extended time to try and nip this for the rest of the year.”

    In and out at different points this year, Forbort’s longest absence from the Boston lineup came with what was a three-game stint in the shelf from Nov. 2 through Nov. 6, with Forbort missing showdowns against the Maple Leafs, Red Wings, and Stars before returning to action on Nov. 9 against the Islanders.

    Overall, the 6-foot-4, 208-pound Forbort has record four assists and a plus-9 rating, along with 29 hits and 35 blocked shots, in 20 games for Boston this season.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 18: Mason Lohrei #6 of the Boston Bruins skates past Josh Anderson #17 of the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at TD Garden on November 18, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Canadiens 5-2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 18: Mason Lohrei #6 of the Boston Bruins skates past Josh Anderson #17 of the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at TD Garden on November 18, 2023. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Lohrei, meanwhile, will return to the NHL after a three-game run with the P-Bruins between NHL assignments.

    On the board with two assists and a plus-2 rating over that stretch, the word from the P-Bruins staff on the 6-foot-5 Lohrei was encouraging, according to Montgomery.

    “He did really well and he was really dominant the first week he was back,” Montgomery said of Lohrei. “Was not as dominant this past weekend but still helped the team win some hockey games.”

  • Nov 9, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) skates against Boston Bruins defenseman Mason Lohrei (6) during the second period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 9, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) skates against Boston Bruins defenseman Mason Lohrei (6) during the second period at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Lohrei put up one goal and four points, along with 17 shots and a minus-3 rating, in 10 games with Boston during his first NHL run with the club. It was easy to see Lohrei’s offensive promise, particularly when it came to Lohrei using his size and skating to help the Bruins break pucks into the offensive zone and extend zone time.

    But it was even easier to see Lohrei’s areas for improvement, particularly in the defensive zone, where the 22-year-old understandably left a lot to be desired given his newness to the pro game. That led to in-game benchings in ‘tight’ games, and Lohrei saw his lowest usage rates whenever the Black and Gold played some upper-echelon teams during his first call-up (games against Dallas, Florida, and Tampa come to mind there).

  • Nov 2, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Mason Lohrei (6) watches a play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 2, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Mason Lohrei (6) watches a play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Of course, part of that is Lohrei needing to work through the kinks to be closer to truly NHL ready, but it hit a point where it was a bit of a stretch for a Boston team that still wants to win each and every night.

    One of 206 NHL defensemen to play at least 150 five-on-five minutes this season, Lohrei has been on the ice for the sixth-most shots against per 60 (37.27) among that group of 206, and is one of seven defensemen among that group of 206 to be on the ice for at least four goals per 60 (4.1). This was while Lohrei posted an offensive-zone faceoff percentage of 62.33 percent, which is the sixth-highest among that group of 206.

    Simplified, the Bruins did everything they could to hypermanage Lohrei’s usage and put him in the best situation to succeed and he still got absolutely hemmed in his own zone.

    How Lohrei adjusts to that in his second run will be extremely interesting to see, as this is by all means the biggest obstacle standing between Lohrei and regular, full-time NHL minutes.

    “I’m just trying to work on the things I need to work on,” Lohrei said following Thursday’s morning skate. “Closing hard, being physical, defensive stuff, playing quick.”

    Lohrei replacing Forbort will also force the Bruins to reconfigure how they deploy their defensive pairings, as they can’t lean on a Lohrei and Kevin Shattenkirk pairing at the same D-zone rate as a Forbort-Shattenkirk duo. It will also force the Bruins to throw Matt Grzelcyk into their penalty-killing rotation, though it will be interesting to see if and when Lohrei forces himself into that conversation should he get a look on the kill.

  • “We know what he’s done for us here and how good he’s been,” Montgomery said of Lohrei. “We’re excited to see where he’s at in his development stage and how much he’s going to help us.”

    Forbort, meanwhile, will be eligible to come off the long-term injured reserve at the end of the month.

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