Bruins Notebook: Frederic looking to carve out regular role in lineup in closing weeks of regular season

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Playing in his first game in three weeks, Trent Frederic logged just 10:47 of ice time in Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But even if the 23-year-old winger didn't pile up heavy minutes in his return to the Bruins' lineup, he certainly made the most of his shifts — doling out five hits, recording a block and playing the type of game that fans have come to expect from the pugnacious forward.

"Typical Freddy," Bruce Cassidy said of Frederic's game. "There's just details from a guy not playing for whatever it was, a month, losing a bit of his progression in certain areas. You're certainly not starting over, but it's his first game in a long time. It's more of a checklist of reminders than anything. Defensively, I thought he did a pretty good job. He's a pretty accountable guy that way, had a big blocked shot…all in all, I thought it was good."

Aside from some issues with finding proper angles on the forecheck, Cassidy ruled Frederic's return as a proper return to form for a youngster that, for at least the first few months of the 2021, seemed to be permanently etched into a bottom-six role on this roster.

But be it due to an extended non-COVID-related illness suffered earlier this month, a dip in his own game or new additions to the lineup pushing him down the depth chart, Frederic's starting spot is far from a guarantee with just a few weeks left in the regular season.

However, with Boston's slumping third line still trying to find some traction and Jake DeBrusk currently bumped out of the rotation, the door is now open for Frederic to try and fight for more reps down the stretch.

"I just wanted to have my feet moving when I had the puck, play physical, get some shots when I get the chance," Frederic said. "There's some small details here and there that I need to work on…hopefully can do that today, have some good jump and get some shots and help the team win."

Now, granted — the odds may not be in Frederic's favor in terms of consistent minutes once the playoffs get underway, given that his expected spot on a healthy (and effective) B's lineup would be on the fourth line. However, you could make the case that a checking unit featuring Curtis Lazar at the pivot and a couple of veteran regulars in Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner have actually been quite effective together since Lazar arrived at the trade deadline.

And while Frederic is slated to start on the third line with Kuraly and Charlie Coyle Thursday against the Sabres, it remains to be seen if that current combination is the best possible concoction that Cassidy can form to help that line gain some traction, especially with DeBrusk on the outside looking in at reps at the moment.

Of course, Frederic can flip such sentiment on its head if he replicates the hard-nosed, impactful (but disciplined) game he showcased back in January and February — while some scoring punch (four goals in 37 games) will certainly help his case.

At this point, there's no guarantee of what Boston's third line will look like come the postseason — although the hope for Boston is that at least Coyle will be driving it at the center position. But a late-season surge could certainly put Frederic in position to snag some reps away from other starters.

Carlo getting closer to return

Reinforcements are on the way on Boston's blue line, as Brandon Carlo practiced with his teammates Thursday for the first time since going on the shelf with an upper-body injury back on April 1.

Carlo has run into some brutal luck on the injury luck since the calendar flipped to March — missing 25 of the B's last 27 games due to suffering a concussion off a high hit from Capitals winger Tom Wilson and the aforementioned upper-body ailment that he sustained just two games after returning to the lineup. While getting back on the ice is a major step in the right direction, Carlo isn't cleared to return quite yet — but Cassidy did note that Boston is targeting next week's road set down in New Jersey as a window for the 24-year-old defenseman to get back into game action.

"If he progresses well - he needs a few practices," Cassidy said of Carlo's timeline. "He'll get one (on Friday) with us. We'll see about Sunday, but that's his timeline right now, obviously could change. But he's done a good job, a fairly quick turnaround for his injury, so we're pleased with that. But again, let's get through the next few days and decide."