Bruce Cassidy isn’t making any promises to Ondrej Kase that his job will be waiting for him if and when he comes back. When it comes to an injured player potentially losing his spot in the lineup because the player filling in for him has exceeded expectations and performed well, Cassidy has always been loyal to his players that he knows well.
“To me personally, it would be about the loyalty to the player that has been injured,” the two-time Jack Adams Award finalist said Tuesday in a Zoom media session. “So for example, if it was a guy that was with us our whole playoff run last year and then this regular season, and I know that he’ll be able to come in and do his job, it would be a little easier for me to give him his spot back because of the trust factor.”
A prime example of that is winger David Pastrnak, who just returned to practice Monday after being quarantined since July 16. Clearly, the co-Rocket Richard Trophy winner – who tied Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in goals with 48 lamplighters in 70 games – had a spot waiting for him next to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the Boston Bruins top and arguably the best line in the NHL the last two seasons. What about Pastrnak’s fellow Czech countryman and buddy Ondrej Kase, who along with Pastrnak, broke the 14-day international travel quarantine on July 11 and has not been on the ice since July 15?
After the Boston Bruins acquired the Kase from the Anaheim Ducks on February 21, Kase played just six games for the Bruins before the regular season went on pause. He registered just one assist in 14:32 of ice time per game while skating mostly with David Krejci.
“Ondrej came late. He came at the deadline. He was building — that’s not a negative — it’s just I don’t know,” Cassidy said. “I don’t know the player well enough right now. He only had a handful of games to integrate himself in the group. … That would be an interesting one. Let’s just say it’s Jack, it’s Bjork, whatever, that takes off and Ondrej’s not ready and they’ve strung together five, six, seven games, played a round, whatever. You’d have to seriously consider making a change to a guy I’ve seen more of, but those are things you decide down the road. ” … It wouldn’t be automatic that I put Ondrej in if the young kid was playing really well.”
Rookie forwards Jack Studnicka and Karson Kuhlman, as well as Anders Bjork, have all seen time riding the right wing on the first line with Marchand and Bergeron and on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. For the last week when Pastrnak was still out, Bjork was seeing more time filling in for him and Studnicka for Kase. Cassidy and Krejci like what Studnicka has brought there.
“I talked to David about his right-side options. I’ve been doing a lot of that over the last few years. He likes the way Jack plays,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “He makes plays in traffic. Jack seems much more confident with the puck than maybe in training camp in September and October, so if he can do that and balance his shot vs. pass mentality — he likes to hang on to it an extra second and look to make a play — and sometimes at the (NHL) level, especially in the playoffs, you’ve gotta have more of a shot mentality. That’s something he’ll have to sort through.”
In comparison to when he arrived at training camp for the 2019-20 season, Studnicka seems to feel more at home wherever Cassidy puts him now and is confident he can get the job done.
“Definitely feel most comfortable I have throughout training camps and black aces,” Studnicka said Tuesday during the Bruins’ media availability. “Every single time we’re able to join the team in a situation like this, I think I get more comfortable. … Definitely every day gets easier, but in terms of (comfort), I’m 100 percent comfortable now in comparison to times in the past where I would have been nervous or starstruck to share the ice with these guys.”
The Bruins play their first and only exhibition game Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 PM ET and then begin the round-robin round on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers at 3 PM ET.