The Bruins season is only three games old and already injuries are starting to become a factor.
With David Pastrnak expected to be unavailable until early February after undergoing offseason hip surgery and Ondrej Kase out with an upper body injury, the B’s lost defenseman Matt Grzelcyk in Monday’s 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders with what appeared to be a left arm or shoulder injury.
At 5:43 of the third period, Grzelcyk was in a high-speed battle with Jordan Eberle along the boards when the two went crashing to the neutral zone ice. Grzelcyk fell awkwardly with his left arm taking the brunt of his body weight.
Team trainer Don Del Negro came out to attend to him. The defenseman soon left the game and did not return. Coach Bruce Cassidy did not have an update, but it did not look good. And if Grzelcyk misses much time, it will not be good for the B’s.
With the departure of Torey Krug, Grzelcyk was given most of his responsibilities, playing on the second pair with Brandon Carlo and quarterbacking the top power-play unit.
As for left defensemen, they still have veteran John Moore and Cassidy has liked what he’d seen from 2017 first rounder Urho Vaakanainen‘s short training camp. Cassidy has also talked about trying righty Connor Clifton on the left side.
But losing Grzelcyk for any length of time, if that happens, is certainly not what the team is looking for.
Studnicka back in lineup
With Kase (upper body) out, Jack Studnicka drew back in to take Kase’s spot on the David Krejci line with Nick Ritchie on the left side. Studnicka had gotten the first call to fill in for Pastrnak on the Patrice Bergeron line, but was scratched in the second game.
“We’re going to let him find his way. He’s playing wing, where he’s played center most of his life. We’re solid down the middle. That’s his opportunity to get playing time. We’re going to have to let him adjust to play on the walls, and not to dive down on the D-zone if there’s a center there, some of those little things,” said Cassidy. “This year, he’s only played the one game. He’ll go back with Krejci, who he played a little bit with last year, so there may be some familiarity there. But at the end of the day, he’s one of the guys who’ll have to find his chemistry with whoever he’s with. He just hasn’t played much hockey for us. That part of it, he’s got to keep his own game up and find how to play when you’re playing with good players like that.
“He’s put on some weight and he’s a stronger player. But we have to be careful not to rush him. He’s still young. You don’t want him to put it all on at once and then he can’t move on the ice. Because his strengths are his speed and his good stick. We’re balancing all that. But it’s not enough time to evaluate where’s he’s at. We’ll give him the month of January and hopefully he gets enough playing time to see where he can best fit.”
Studnicka did not have a shot on net, but was active in the offensive zone and did some solid penalty killing.
Kase, meanwhile, was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to last Saturday’s game in New Jersey, which means he won’t be eligible to play until at least Saturday against Philadelphia.
Honoring O’Ree on MLK Day
On Martin Luther King‘s birthday holiday, teams across the NHL wore helmet decals with the words Celebrating Equality with Willie O’Ree‘s image. They will wear them through the month of February.
It was 63 years to the day that O’Ree broke the color barrier when he was called up by the Bruins from the Quebec Aces to play in Montreal against the Canadiens. In his role with the league as its diversity ambassador, O’Ree has been a frequent presence at various NHL rinks.
“He’s a great ambassador for the league,” said Islander coach Barry Trotz. “What’s he’s done for the league is exceptional. He’s a great human being. If you don’t like Willie O’Ree, well, I don’t like you if you don’t like Willie O’Ree. He’s such a great person and good role model for the game.”