BRIGHTON, Mass — After pushing out to an impressive 5-1-1 start to their regular season, the Boston Bruins are poised to get even more dangerous with the return of the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, David Pastrnak, this weekend.
The 24-year-old will need to wake up feeling good on Saturday before he’s officially added to the Bruins lineup against the Washington Capitals, but Pastrnak pronounced himself healthy, ready and willing to go after missing the first seven games of the season. The Bruins right winger was recovering from September hip surgery and was initially expected to return in mid-February, but Pastrnak has been ahead of schedule throughout the process.
“I feel great. It’s been a long road and a lot of practices are behind me. I feel ready. I feel 100 percent. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure I’m ready,” said Pastrnak, who said the hip issue had been bothering him for about a year before he had surgery. “The most important thing for me is that I’m pain-free now and I feel great skating.”
Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Pastrnak won’t officially be ready to go until he wakes up feeling good on Saturday morning after working hard this week in practice, but it all feels like a formality at this point for Boston’s game-breaker and PP sniper.
“He’s going to go for morning skate with us. It sounds like he’s checked all the boxes, but we’ll make that decision [on Saturday],” said Cassidy of Pastrnak, who had 48 goals and 95 points in 70 games for the Bruins last season. “My guess is that he’s got a good chance to play [Saturday]. We have the intention to play him if we get those medical clearances and it sounds like there’s a very good chance that we will.”
With Pastrnak back in the fold, he’ll be installed back into his normal right wing spot on the Perfection Line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. With Jake DeBrusk and Ondrej Kase out with injuries, the Bruins will move Craig Smith back to the third line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic after some excellent previous games together.
It leaves one spot up for grabs on the right wing with David Krejci that could be filled by rookie Jack Studnicka if he’s ready to play after taking a big hit in Thursday night’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. If Studnicka can’t play then the Bruins may switch Anders Bjork over to the right wing from the fourth line after a great game on Thursday or activate Karson Kuhlman from the taxi squad after serving there for the first handful of games this season.
Here are the Bruins protected line combos and D-pairings vs. the Washington Capitals based on Friday’s optional practice: