Bruins center Patrice Bergeron looks likely to return to the lineup Saturday against Nashville after missing 16 games since he injured his ribs and collarbone in Dallas on Nov. 16.
In Bergeron’s absence the Bruins went 9-6-1and David Krejci has thrived centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak the past several games. But at least at the start of Bergeron’s return, neither he nor Krejci will be centering the Marchand-Pastrnak combination.
At practice Friday at Warrior Ice Arena, Bergeron centered Marchand and Danton Heinen. Krejci and Pastrnak were joined by Joakim Nordstrom. Forward Jake DeBrusk, who’s still going through the NHL concussion protocol, practiced but he won’t be returning Saturday, so coach Bruce Cassidy wants to balance out his lines.
That means Bergeron and Marchand are a pair, and Heinen gets the first chance to find some success to their right.
“With Heinen it’s more about an opportunity for someone to get going offensively, whoever we put up there if it’s not David Pastrnak. So I think that line is defensive. Just putting Bergy on any line makes it a very good defensive line. So Heinen played up with Marshy last year at times, played in Marshy’s spot with Bergy when Marshy was suspended. He did OK there, so hopefully it translates for him.”
Heinen, who had 16 goals and 31 assists in 77 games last season, has four goals and four assists in 33 games. Nordstrom, who’s not supposed to be expected to score much, has five goals and two assists in 34 games. Neither has consistently shown an ability to be a top-six forward in the NHL.
At first glance these lines look like a threat to slow down the Bruins’ offense, which has outscored the opposition 7-1 during Boston’s two-game winning streak, rather than a threat to score. This smells of a situation where Cassidy quickly figures out he needs at least one line that’s a major offensive threat to pressure Nashville and juggles things so either Krejci or Bergeron is between Marchand and Pastrnak maybe as soon as late in the first period.
In the bottom six, Sean Kuraly, Colby Cave and David Backes practiced as a third line. And then it looked like Cassidy was deciding between Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Noel Acciari, Ryan Donato and Chris Wagner for his fourth line.
Rookie defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, who’s returning from a concussion, was cleared for contact and is going to join Finland for the IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver starting next week.
Next week Zee
Defenseman Zdeno Chara, out the past 17 games with a knee injury, will miss the Bruins’ two games this weekend but he could be back next week.
Jaroslav Halak will make his third straight start when the Bruins host the Predators. Tuukka Rask will get the start in Carolina on Sunday.