BRIGHTON, Mass – Ondrej Kase admitted it was a very long road back to playing for the Boston Bruins this season with a lot of starts and stops.
But after missing the last 52 games with a concussion suffered in the second game of the season in what seemed like a fairly harmless collision with Miles Wood, Kase is set to make his return against the Islanders in one of Boston’s final tune-ups ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The 24-year-old winger put an emphasis on being “I’m ready…100 percent” and still has a lot to show the Bruins having posted just five assists in 19 games, regular season and playoffs, over the last two seasons beset by COVID-19 quarantines, injuries and a suspected concussion that had him on the shelf when he first arrived in Boston via trade last season.
“It’s been pretty hard for me. I only played six or seven games during the regular season, so it’s a very hard start for me playing for Boston,” said Kase. “I am so excited to be back. It was up and down a lot, but I feel like it was mostly “up.” Every week was a little bit better. It wasn’t a big hit, but [Wood] hit me in a bad spot.
“I’m ready…100 percent. I’ve skated for almost two months, so I’m conditioning is pretty good. I hope I can help the team. I haven’t played too many games here, so I need to show the team that I am important to play here.”
Certainly there’s an argument to be made that Kase shouldn’t even be in the mix for a playoff roster spot in Game 1 after missing nearly the entire season due to injury. Even when he’s been healthy and in the B’s lineup, he hasn’t been anything close to an impact player.
He was skating on the right wing with Jake DeBrusk and Curtis Lazar during Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena and that makes for an interesting combination to take a look at prior to the postseason. Certainly nothing is set in stone for the bottom-6 forward group with the Bruins as different combinations and players.
“Ondrej Kase is coming in [for Monday night’s game]; where is he at?” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “There are a couple of [lineup] question marks that will affect how the bottom-6 will shake out. We have a line tonight of DeBrusk, Lazar and Kase. Let’s see how they look. DeBrusk and Kase have played together in the past in the playoffs, so they may have some chemistry. We’ll see and then how does that affect the other lines. [Kase] needs to come in and shake the rust off as soon as possible if he has any chance of playing next week, or this weekend, whenever we start.”
Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings against the Islanders in the final home game of the regular season with Tuukka Rask projected to start in net: