After it initially appeared Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (lower body) wouldn’t miss any time despite being banged up the last few games, the B’s defenseman will miss Saturday night’s tilt vs. the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Grzelcyk tumbled feet-first into the boards awkwardly during the Bruins shootout win over the Flyers and finished out regulation before being held out of overtime.
Another look at Matt Grzelcyk’s awkward collision into the boards. Scary stuff. pic.twitter.com/JzgmCJ3XIc
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 22, 2021
The incident took place just a couple days after Grzelcyk appeared to get his arm twisted up with Jordan Eberle in a loss to the Islanders, so there’s little doubt the puck-moving defenseman is sufficiently banged up and bruised at this point.
Grzelcyk didn’t make it out for Saturday morning’s optional morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, so right-shot Connor Clifton will make his 2021 debut and flip over to the left side and partner with Brandon Carlo. Charlie McAvoy will fill in for Grzelcyk running point on the top power play unit along with David Krejci, but there’s zero question the B’s will miss Grzelcyk’s swift skating and deft puck moving abilities.
“He’s out. He’ll be day-to-day. Johnny Moore has a lower body injury he’s been dealing with a little bit since training camp, so he won’t be available,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s day-to-day as well. So, Clifton is going to go in and play on his offside. We’ve been working with over there, so he’ll just go right in with Carlo.
“We’ll work from there. [Urho] Vaakanainen is available with the taxi squad but we’ll go with [Clifton]. He’s been practicing with us. I’m certainly confident in either guy, but that’s the direction we’ll go with tonight. We’ll see how he does on his off-side and see where we are health-wise [for Tuesday].”
It all begs the question whether the smallish Grzelcyk could run into some durability challenges this season with the Bruins counting on him to play a top-4 role. It means Grzelcyk will likely top 20 minutes of ice time per game – a raise of at least a couple minutes from his previous career norms as a third-pair D-man – and he’ll need to prove he can manage things physically while enduring the rigors of a full hockey season with a heavier workload.
“Yeah. We have to be careful. There were some injuries in college, but in pro he’s been relatively fortunate. He got tangled up with the Islanders the other day and I think he was trying to do a little too much in the offensive zone, so we’ve addressed that. He’s got a different role with us and he’s got to understand that” said Cassidy. “You never want to tell a player to pace themselves, but ‘keep yourself out of those tough positions.’ The injury on [Thursday] I think he just lost an edge and there’s nothing you can really do about that.
“His minutes will be up this year and we know that going in. But we thought they wouldn’t be as [taxing] with the [additional] power play time because they’re not hard minutes on your body. And the overtime minutes have really piled up early. So, let’s get back to a normal routine and we’re not in overtime every night. If he was at 18 [minutes a game] I expect him to be around 20 [this season], and it should be because of power play which isn’t that taxing. He’s an important guy for us now because he’s at the top of the power play. So especially without a left stick that we’ve seen out there [on the top power play] a lot, that’s the concern with Gryz. We lose a lot if he’s out, so we want to see him stay out of harm’s way. But then again, he’s got to play hockey and if he’s got the puck a lot then chances are, he’s going to get hit.”
It’s certainly not a question of toughness for Grzelcyk, however. He’s played through painful injuries numerous times and he does his rugged, blue collar hometown of Charlestown proud with his ability to stoically play through nagging issues.
But there’s only so much NHL pounding that a 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame can handle with Grzelcyk counted on to play a major role for the Boston Bruins this season, and beyond. Here’s the projected Boston Bruins line combos and D-pairings for Saturday night vs. the Flyers based on morning skate: