The dark cloud of mystery that’s hung over Boston Bruins winger Ondrej Kase since Phase 3 and training camp began July 13 was still lingering on Saturday and may not clear out before the Bruins take off for Toronto at 5:30 PM ET on Sunday. Kase and forwards David Pastrnak, Nick Ritchie, and Paul Carey were all missing from the team’s final practice of training camp at Warrior Arena in Brighton. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy ruled Kase questionable for the flight north and potentially for Phase 4 and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
‘Pastrnak and Ritchie I believe will be traveling,” Cassidy said. “Kase I’m not sure. I guess we’ll get a confirmation on that tomorrow, that’s my understanding.”
Kase and Pastrnak have missed all but one practice since camp began. The two Czech forwards missed the first two days in order to finish the 14-day international travel quarantine but social media photos of them out in the North end on July 11 and of Pastrnak practicing with some fans at a Malden, MA rink surfaced and made it clear they had broken quarantine. They still somehow practiced July 15 despite doing so but haven’t skated since then. On July 17, Pastrnak’s agent J.P. Barry confirmed that his agent had tested negative for COVID19 sometime between the team’s practices on July 16 and July 17. However, because Pastrnak had come into contact with someone who has COVID19 he returned to quarantine. Kase’s status has been a complete mystery though except for designated ‘unfit to play’ injury disclosure to the media.
This past Wednesday, a clearly disappointed Bruins President Cam Neely questioned the decision making of Pastrnak and Kase but was hopefully both would be cleared for Toronto and start skating again there.
“We had the date for when camp was starting and knew that some players may need to quarantine when they get here, you kind of hope they would get here a little earlier,” a frustrated Neely said. “But we didn’t really have much say in that and that was really left up to the players. And so obviously with what’s played out and transpired you certainly would’ve hoped there’s some different decisions made, but in the long run I don’t know if it’s really going to affect us once we get into Toronto, I think we’ll be fine.”
Both Neely and Cassidy have expressed confidence that once Pastrnak is cleared to play, it won’t take him too long to catch up to the rest of his teammates who have participated in some hard and competitive practices and scrimmages over the last two weeks. Kase however could take quite a bit longer. The Bruins have been hoping Kase would be riding the right side on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk since he came to the Bruins in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks just before the February 24 NHL trade deadline. Unfortunately though, when Kase was acquired from the Ducks in exchange for forward David Backes and a first round pick, he was injured and missed his first seven games with the Bruins. He only ended up playing in six games and had just one assist when the NHL paused the 2019-19 regular season on March 12.
Cassidy has admitted that he is worried Kase won’t be able to assimilate into the Bruins lineup before the team plays their first round robin game on August 2 against the Philadelphia Flyers and maybe even when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin on August 12.
“Clearly Ondrej hasn’t joined us and we’re traveling to Toronto on Sunday, so we’ve got two practices left [in Boston]. So he’s got some catching up to do,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy during Thursday’s Zoom call with Bruins media. “If we feel that he’s not caught up and we feel that [Anders] Bjork and [Karson Kuhlman] are playing well, then that’s the direction that we will go. I haven’t seen Ondrej play in the playoffs, so he would be a guy that we’re not 100 percent sure on how he’s going to perform at that level.”
The two-time Jack Adams Award finalist made sure not to just single out the former Duck though.
“All of them will have issues with the timing and execution of playing in tight spaces because they haven’t done it,” said the coach. “That’s the part where they’re going to have to be careful — keeping your head up (when) making plays. It’ll be live, and at high intensity, so those guys will have to catch up in a hurry. And I don’t know that we can necessarily simulate it in practice. We’re not going to start running each other, just so (they) can get ready … At the end of the day, the live stuff is going to be up to them.”