Until general manager Don Sweeney makes a trade for a top-nine forward, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has to work with the players he has on the roster.
And if that means breaking up the second-line pair of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, Cassidy proved Tuesday he’s willing to do it to balance out his lines.
Krejci returned to the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury, and instead of plugging in between DeBrusk and Anders Bjork, where he’d been playing before the injury, Krejci was placed in between Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman.
Let’s face it, Krejci’s used to changing wings, so what’s the difference if it’s one or two? He can still be a productive player, and he now has 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 42 games.
While working his way back from injury Krejci skated in a red no-contact sweater on Monday and then took part in an optional morning skate Tuesday. There was no time for him and his new linemates to forge chemistry, but individually both Heinen and Kuhlman have played with Krejci in the past.
“Well I feel like all three of us are pretty smart on that line and we played together before, right, so we know what to expect from each other,” Krejci said. “Like I said, they’re smart players, they like to make plays, doesn’t work all the time, but it worked when it mattered tonight, and glad we could help the team to get a W tonight.”
There was a two-pronged reason for Cassidy’s decision to go with the lineup he used. First, he said, with Krejci being a game-time decision it was easier to just plug him into Par Lindholm’s spot if Krejci was ready to go.
Second, once Krejci gave him the green light, Cassidy said he liked what he saw from the DeBrusk-Coyle-Bjork combination in the 4-3 loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday. That line couldn’t prevent the Bruins from blowing a 3-0 lead but did combine on a Bjork goal to help Boston build its lead.
In responding to a question about the “state of the team” now that it has hit the All-Star break/CBA-mandated week off, Cassidy, though, gave a third insight into his thinking.
“Balanced scoring, if Coyle and DeBrusk and Bjork can kind of keep contributing, maybe Krech does give us – not saying he’d be third line, but you know what I mean – nine forwards that can all kind of pitch in,” the coach said.
Of course Krejci wouldn’t be a third-liner. If he can help Heinen and Kuhlman lift their offensive game, the Bruins would be able to roll at least three, if not all four lines, and the production would come from various places. The balanced scoring issue would be solved – probably temporarily, but enough that Sweeney would have more time before he has to add to his forward group before the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline.