PHILADELPHIA — With one final preseason game to get ready for the regular season, the Boston Bruins will finally take Charlie Coyle out of bubble wrap. The Weymouth kid has missed all the exhibition games in the preseason to this point while returning from knee surgery this summer but has been a full go at training camp practices since missing the first few days on the ice.
The Bruins are expected to ice something very close to their opening night lineup on Wednesday night at TD Garden against the Washington Capitals, and, barring any unforeseen setback, that includes Coyle getting into the final dress rehearsal.
Coyle’s absence has allowed Jack Studnicka to really put together an impressive preseason with two goals and four points, including the B’s only goal in a 2-1 overtime loss to a Philadelphia Flyers lineup that went pretty heavy on the NHL regulars at Wells Fargo Center on Monday night. Now it’s Coyle’s chance to get a turn centering Taylor Hall and Craig Smith in a No. 2 center role that the Boston Bruins have envisioned for him since the offseason. While he would’ve loved to get in some more preseason games, Coyle is simply thrilled to be playing again and that he will be good to go for opening night.
“I feel great,” said Coyle. “You always can think back to, I wish I was healthy this summer so I could get more reps in and work on things more. But the main thing is being 100 percent ready for Game 1. I know that’s where I am and that’s where I’m gonna be when that time comes. That’s most important in my mind and that way I can feel confident in everything I do, and I can just go play hockey.”
As for feeling challenged by Studnicka’s performance and worried that the upstart forward could usurp him in the lineup, Coyle once again welcomed the competition.
“That’s what you need,” Coyle said following Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “I think that’s what good teams have…every day, I think, you should feel a little pressure, whether it’s younger guys or older guys trying to make a push. That’s what makes us guys ahead, I guess, play better because if you don’t, they’re coming up. That’s the mindset you have to have; you have to bring it every day or someone else is gonna take your spot.”
“To have extra guys that can come in and play, that’s only gonna make everyone better, make our team better. You love to see a guy like that play well and push us, push me. I hope I push him. That’s what makes a good team and good teammates. That’s exactly what we need.”
It’s theoretically going to be a challenge for Coyle to jump into the regular season with just one preseason game under his belt, but the rehab and health circumstances kind of dictated that over the course of training camp.
“[Coyle] has to play some games here. He’s going to play Wednesday hopefully and then he’ll need to get some games under him before we start moving the pieces around,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy of Coyle, who struggled with six goals and 16 points in 51 games while playing injured last season. “It will be [a challenge] for [Coyle] but he’s been skating. He’s not new to the league and he’s not new to [Craig Smith] and he’s practiced with [Taylor] Hall, so he’ll be up to speed. We’ve seen [Erik] Haula now, and [Patrice Bergeron] is up to speed and [Tomas] Nosek, so we have some guys where we can go easy on [Coyle’s] minutes at the start if we really need to for shaking the rust off.
“I’m not too worried about Charlie in that regard. He looks great and he said that the treatment he got for his injury that he’s feeling better. It’s just like a lot of other guys where the first few games will be getting back up to speed.”
Cassidy indicated that the Boston Bruins will continue holding discussions about the best plan for Studnicka, who clearly has played well enough to make a crowded Boston Bruins forward group to start the season.