A day off Wednesday seemed to help newly acquired Boston Bruins winger Nick Ritchie reenergize and acclimate as much as he could so far because on Thursday the 6-foot-2, 234-pound winger looked rejuvenated and for one game at least, brought the type of game the Bruins envisioned. Ritchie played his normal physical game finishing with three hits and two blocked shots in 12:59 minutes on the ice but also chipped in with a goal and an assist in a 4-3 Bruins win over the Dallas Stars.
That’s the grit and scoring combo General Manager Don Sweeney and head coach Bruce Cassidy were looking for when they acquired Ritchie from the Anaheim Ducks Monday in exchange for Danton Heinen. The 24-year-oldwas drafted tenth overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft but hasn’t eclipsed the 15-goal plateau in five NHL seasons and 289 games. On Thursday he delivered just what the Bruins needed in a physical, heavy game Ritchie was familiar with from playing in the Western conference his entire career until now.
“I think Nick was much better than the other night, a little more into the game Puck was finding him. And we knew that would happen, I just thought it was unfair the other night,” said Cassidy who went easy on Ritchie in his postgame comments after a 5-2 Bruins loss to the Calgary Flames in Ritchie’s first game Tuesday.
You fly in, it’s a lot of newness going on. He’s had a couple of days to acclimate a little bit. Listen, I’m not going to say he’s going to get two points every night, but he’ll probably be somewhere in between there and that’s what we expect out of him. A bigger body, especially in this type of game I thought. They’re a heavy team, they finish checks and you’ve got to work to get to the net. And I thought he did a real good job with that.”
Ritchie acknowledged the day off Wednesday helped and he was more comfortable Thursday.
“It was good. It was nice to score. It was nice to win,” said Ritchie. “My energy levels were higher and I definitely felt better with my legs. I definitely played a better game and the team played better as well. It was just a simple shot, but whenever it goes in, it obviously feels really good.”
Cassidy put Ritchie on the second line with David Krejci and his former teammate and linemate in Anaheim, Ondrej Kase, who the Bruins acquired a week ago.
“Early on [as a line] we played a lot together and we had some good shifts, and we really got in on the fore-check. It was good,” Ritchie said of his new and old linemates.
Cassidy had the line back together again at practice Friday and hinted at keeping at least Ritchie and Krejci together and maybe Kase as well when the Bruins face the New York Islanders Saturday afternoon.
“Ritchie with Krejci, I think could go somewhere as long as they have some chemistry, as long as there’s some pace on the other side,” Cassidy said. “That could be Ondrej if we drop Pasta [David Pastrnak] down at times but as long as there’s some pace. I’ll look at pairs. [Jake] DeBrusk, [Charlie] Coyle, I think like I said, I like the way they’ve played together [on the third line]. Even Anders [Bjork] when he’s over there. I thought our fourth line was contributing again tonight. Unfortunately, Wags [Chris Wagner] got hurt there in that scuffle, but I thought they did a good job as well.”
Wagner (upper-body) missed practice Friday and will not travel with the team. Here’s what the lineup looked like at Warrior Arena Friday.