SUNRISE, FL – It felt like it was only a matter of time before rookie Jack Studnicka was going to get a real, regular season look at the No. 2 center spot for the Boston Bruins, and that time has already arrived. The 22-year-old center will be skating between Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle for Wednesday night’s showdown with the undefeated Florida Panthers at FLA Live Arena as Bruce Cassidy pieces together the forward group while missing a pair of injured right wings in Craig Smith and Nick Foligno.
“We’ve got back-to-back games, so we’ll be balancing things out. We’re on the road against two undefeated teams where we’re going to need everybody and have to trust everybody,” said Cassidy. “It gives us at least a chance to start that way and if everybody is on their game then we’ve got some balance and we can go from there.
“He just has to play his game. He was a guy that was driving some offense in the preseason by shooting the puck and playing a north/south game. Not slowing the game down at all and playing at a higher tempo and keeping things simpler. Both of his wingers can really move, so he’ll need his legs under him.”
Studnicka was called up last weekend to center the fourth line and finished with a serviceable 11:10 of ice time in a winning effort for the B’s. But the return of Curtis Lazar to the fourth line pushed the B’s coaching staff to juggle the lines further and allow them to get a regular season look at Studnicka in a top-6 role.
In all honesty, the No. 2 center spot vacated by David Krejci this summer is still open for the taker as Coyle (one goal, three points in four games) hasn’t completely seized it in the first few weeks of the regular season.
To his credit, Studnicka shrugged off any disappointment after being one of the last training camp cuts and played well in Providence to earn the quick promotion to the NHL once injuries began to hit.
“I’m super excited. I can’t wait to be a part of it playing with two veteran wingers that know how to produce in this league,” said Studnicka. “Hopefully I’ll be solid defensively for them and things go well.
“[My mindset coming out of camp] was to stay be positive, be proud of what I did during the preseason and just try to keep it going. I played my game down there and waited for my next opportunity [in the NHL] and I’m thankful that it came pretty early.”
With Lazar healthy again and ready to go, it will be rookie Oskar Steen that will be the odd man out for the Bruins after picking up his first NHL point in Sunday’s win over the San Jose Sharks.
Otherwise, it will be a familiar lineup for the Black and Gold as they take on a Panthers hockey club that’s been strong, deep and well-rounded to start the season and should be a nice little early season test for the Bruins.
“For us it’s a measuring stick early on in the year,” said Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. “It’s a challenge that you want to get excited about”
Here are the projected Boston Bruins line combos and D-pairings based on Wednesday’s morning skate in Florida: