BRIGHTON, Mass – As expected, the Boston Bruins looked a lot healthier skating around for a Monday morning practice at Warrior Ice Arena after getting a weekend off following a long road stretch through Philadelphia and Washington.
Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk were both full participants at practice after coming back from lower body injuries and will be expected to play Wednesday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Rookie Jack Studnicka also took part in practice wearing a non-contact jersey after missing the last four games with an upper body injury.
The only negative was Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy leaving practice early after a big collision with Trent Frederic during small-ice battle drills toward the end of practice, an exit necessitated by a chipped tooth from the impact with the B’s rookie forward.
“He just bumped into Frederic and I think he chipped a tooth, to be honest with you,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Otherwise, he’s fine. So, he’s going to the dentist. Obviously, we’ll have an update later and hopefully he’s good to go tomorrow.”
The other negative: A Grzelcyk return to the Bruins lineup means that Connor Clifton will be coming out of the lineup for the Bruins when they resume against the Rangers, a tough development after Clifton played extremely well in Grzelcyk’s absence. Clifton’s strongest game arrived last week when he played a rugged game against the Flyers on Friday night and dropped the gloves with Nicolas Aube-Kubel in a flurry of right-handed uppercuts.
It’s a reality that both Clifton and John Moore have accepted as the two extra defensemen on the Boston Bruins roster right now, and a statement that the Bruins are getting what they want out of their young defensemen in Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon right now.
“The good news is that the guys on the left side have been solid, so there’s no discussion of saying they’re not ready or they’re regressing. Certainly, there have been some games that are better than others, but for the most part they’ve been fairly consistent,” said Cassidy of Clifton, who has averaged 17:08 of ice time per game in six games playing in place of Grzelcyk. “Clifton just has to stay ready. That’s usually the message to him. I’ve told him he might go in the left side or the right side, and this time it was the left side.
“So, he got a few reps there and did a great job for us. So, it’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you.”
Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Monday’s practice amidst a two-game hiatus due to game postponements vs. Buffalo caused by COVID-19 protocols: