BRIGHTON, Mass – While the Boston Bruins are in the midst of impressive back-to-back wins over the Panthers and Red Wings in the last week, they may be getting even stronger, deeper and healthier up front with the imminent return of a couple of injured players.
Nick Foligno and Anton Blidh returned to the Bruins practice group at Warrior Ice Arena on Friday in no-contact sweaters ahead of Saturday night’s divisional showdown with the Maple Leafs in Toronto. The 34-year-old Foligno won’t be traveling with the team to Canada and isn’t an option to play this weekend, but his presence means he’s closing in on a return from an upper body injury that’s kept him out since the second game of the regular season.
In Foligno’s absence the Bruins have mixed and matched on the third line but seem to have found a pretty effective combination of forwards with Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula skating with normal fourth liner Curtis Lazar on the right wing side. A return for Foligno would undoubtedly push Lazar back to the fourth line and alter the makeup of the second PP unit as well, but that’s nothing something the bottom-6 winger shouldn’t be concerning himself with right now.
“It looks like [Lazar] has bounced back pretty well [from the early season injury],” said Cassidy of the fourth liner, who picked up an assist on Reilly’s shorthanded strike in Boston’s 5-1 win over the Red Wings on Thursday night. “He gets a play made last night by going hard to the net, and good for Mike Reilly to follow up [on the shorthanded breakaway]. I think Curtis has had some looks and has helped that line by going to the net during 5-on-5 play. That’s something Foligno is going to do that when he’s healthy.”
Here are the projected Boston Bruins line combos and defense pairings based on Friday’s practice at Warrior: