Lineup decisions loom for Bruce Cassidy when David Pastrnak returns


On the “Zero Pucks Given Podcast” with Dale Arnold last week I mentioned that the Bruins may not have much of a choice when David Pastrnak returns from thumb surgery (34:40 into the clip) other than to put him back on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand because Pastrnak may need time to become the same player he was before the injury.

General manager Don Sweeney mentioned that Pastrnak will have to wear a splint when he’s medically cleared to play, and while he’s getting used to that it may be unfair to also ask him to find chemistry with new linemates.

With Pastrnak skating while holding a stick for the first time since the injury Tuesday, and probably close to a week from returning to the lineup, coach Bruce Cassidy’s lineup decision is getting closer. He expanded on that matter after the morning skate Tuesday in preparation for an evening game against Carolina.

Cassidy started out my commending the work Danton Heinen has done while playing with Bergeron and Marchand and then continued talking about the chance that Pastrnak might play with David Krejci is there’s time and Pastrnak is comfortable:

“It’s about balance, something we’ve wanted to look at all year, for different reasons we haven’t got a long look. I still think it depends on when David actually returns to the lineup. That’s determined by the doctors. If he has a little time to develop a little chemistry with Krejci. He has chemistry, but he hasn’t played a lot with him this year. I think it’s just easier for him to go back with Bergy and Marsh if it’s a real tight window of when the playoffs start.

“That will have something to do with it as well. That will allow [Marcus] Johansson maybe to play with [Charlie] Coyle, which balances lines a little bit. If Pasta goes up with Bergy and Marsh, then Danton can go down with Coyle as well, we’ll see if there’s [chemistry].

“You don’t want to go in the playoffs – and this is assuming we keep playing well – and have a whole bunch of new lines. So we’ve got to be careful. But it’s the hand we’re dealt with Pasta [coming back].”

If the Jake DeBrusk-Krejci-Johansson line keeps playing well, it’ll be Cassidy’s best bet to at least start the playoffs with Pastrnak on the first line and bump Heinen down to Coyle’s left. Heinen has had chemistry with David Backes in the past, if Backes wins the third-line right wing job. If the Bruins go with Joakim Nordstrom on that line, he’s shown he can find chemistry pretty quickly regardless of where he’s put in the lineup.

Cehlarik’s lesson

Peter Cehlarik would like to make his case for being in the playoff lineup, but he’s hit a lull in his season. Although the Bruins beat New Jersey 1-0 on Saturday, Cehlarik sat out the whole third period – the first time Cassidy has sent a message that way in his two-plus seasons as Bruins head coach.

Cehlarik explained Tuesday that there was a play where Matt Grzelcyk pinched and Cehlarik didn’t protect the blue line, leading to a Devils odd-man rush that led to the benching.

We’ll find out quickly if Cehlarik has learned his lesson because he’s slated to play with Coyle and Backes again Tuesday.

“I do [think I’ve learned], yeah, for sure. I mean I’ve been in this position before and it’s all about how I react to it now and I’m going to play a good game tonight,” he said.

Halak starts

Tuukka Rask is riding a 17-game point streak (14-0-3), but Jaroslav Halak will start against the Hurricanes. He has a more modest six-game point streak (4-0-2), with a .946 save percentage in that span.

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