The Boston Bruins are just three games into the NHL regular season, but the forward depth they diligently built up in the offseason is already being challenged in a major way.
Veteran winger Nick Foligno suffered an upper body injury in the second game of the season in Philadelphia and will miss his second straight game when the Bruins take on the San Jose Sharks in Sunday afternoon’s matinee at TD Garden. It certainly sounded like things might not be a short-term fix for Foligno’s injury either.
Anton Blidh (upper body) replaced Foligno in the B’s lineup for Friday night’s game in Buffalo and he too is now out with an injury suffered during the win over the Sabres.
Additionally, Craig Smith is questionable for Sunday’s tilt vs. the undefeated Sharks after missing practice time this week while playing through something that’s clearly nagging him physically at this point.
“Smitty wasn’t 100 percent throughout the game,” admitted Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy of Smith, who had zero shots on net and wasn’t much of a factor in 11:06 of ice time while getting switched up with Tomas Nosek between the second and third lines. “I just felt like he was ‘off’ a little bit and he’s dealing with a little bit of a nagging injury that we’re working through.”
With all of that, the Bruins are expected to recall rookie Jack Studnicka from Providence after he was one of the last forwards cut during a sensational preseason. The 22-year-old Studnicka has a goal and two points along with a minus-1 in three games thus far for the P-Bruins, and clearly could help a Bruins team missing some serious firepower and second-effort oomph if both Foligno and Smith are out of the lineup.
“I believe Studs will come up. He’s a right shot. He might play center or swing. We’re not sure. We might keep him at center and that would push [Trent Frederic] over [to the wing],” said Cassidy. “At the end of the day, he probably left here [at the end of the preseason] the most deserving, so if that’s the route we’re going to go then he’s certainly a guy that deserves it. And he’s played well [in Providence] too.
“His role is that he needs to play good two-way hockey no matter what. Whether he plays with Frederic or Kuhlman [on the fourth line] or moves up in the lineup on the wing, he shouldn’t walk through the door and think ‘I’ve got to play this game or that game.’ He’s got to just play his game and not overthink it. He was hard on pucks, playing in straight lines, getting to the net and complimenting whoever he was with [in training camp].”
Studnicka could be exactly the kind of lift that the Boston Bruins will need if they are missing several bodies up front and battling injuries despite playing just two games over a two-week period at the end of the preseason/beginning of the regular season.