Despite only taking part in three full-squad practices since the start of Phase 3 workouts, David Pastrnak will be back in the lineup for Boston’s exhibition matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
Bruce Cassidy confirmed Pastrnak’s status on Thursday afternoon, noting that the star forward would take part in Boston's lone tune-up ahead of round-robin play. The B’s winger took part in an optional skate Thursday morning alongside 16 other players, including Nick Ritchie, who returned to the ice for the first time since July 21.
As expected, Pastrnak will skate back in his usual spot on Boston’s first line next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Even if he’s only been on the ice at a fraction of the time of some of his other teammates, Pastrank appears to have passed the eye test when it comes to keeping the rust off during his extended quarantine.
"He's looking good," Bergeron said. "We have some catching up to do, to catch up to him. He's looking great. Looking like Pasta pretty much, like he didn't miss a beat."
"It was a little frustrating watching him come back and realizing how far behind him we are," Marchand added. "It's been a lot of fun having him back, even just his energy that he brings to the table every day."
Even though Ritchie returned to the ice Thursday, the power forward will sit out of Boston’s matchup against the Jackets, with Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman set to rotate in and out of the third line next to Charlie Coyle and Sean Kuraly.
As has been the case for most of Boston’s practices as of late, youngster Jack Studnicka will skate alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line — with Thursday standing as the first legitimate chance for Studnicka to stake his claim as a viable top-six option ahead of this playoff run. Expect both Bjork and Kuhlman to also cycle through reps next to Krejci.
Given both the need to manage minutes — and assess players such as Studnicka/Bjork/Kuhlman vying for two spots — Cassidy said that the Bruins will dress 13 forwards and seven defensemen for Thursday’s matchup. John Moore will serve as the club’s seventh skater on the blue line, while both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak will split time in net.
"I think we're going to play a pretty full lineup. … (I'd) be very surprised if anybody was much over, as a forward, up over 16 minutes anyway,” Cassidy said. “We're going to certainly try to look at that and not tax guys in an exhibition game. But sometimes situations dictate — there's a lot of special teams and the numbers add up. I don't mind extra minutes if it's power play, it's usually not that taxing, but if it's five-on-five and penalty kill? We want to make sure we manage it.”
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