BOSTON — When healthy, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg and Kevan Miller are near locks to occupy five of the Bruins’ six defenseman slots on any given night. The sixth has been a revolving door.
Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and Colin Miller all have taken turns in and out of the lineup in this, their first full NHL seasons, with each appearing in 24 or more of Boston’s first 60 games but none seeing action in more than 39.
For Morrow, who played in 15 games for the Bruins last season but spent the bulk of the year in the American Hockey League, the omnipresent uncertainty has been a source of both stress and motivation.
“It’s tough,” the 23-year-old said before Wednesday night’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. “It puts a little pressure on you, but pressure is never a bad thing. You can always use that to your advantage and not take it as a negative, as long as you can just push yourself to overcome the pressure and put it on your back and run with it. So that’s all I try to do.”
Morrow’s time in the lineup has been more sporadic and brief than Trotman’s and Colin Miller’s this season. Morrow has yet to play in more than six consecutive games, and he endured a stretch of 20 healthy scratches in 22 contests between early November in late December.
The young blueliner has impressed in his latest shot at playing time, however, tallying two assists in back-to-back games to more than double his season point total. He now has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 24 games and is expected to be in the lineup again against the Penguins.
“Nothing’s changed with him when he skates and moves the puck,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said Wednesday morning. “He’s a good defenseman. I think he’s got the ability to skate the puck out and to carry the puck, even move the puck when you put him on the power play — he’s done a decent job there as well. And with him it’s always been (about keeping) the consistency in his game. If we could ever get close to the same thing from him on a game-to-game basis, that would help his game tremendously.”
Morrow knows how little job security he has at this point in his career, as evidenced by the Bruins’ somewhat-surprising decision earlier this month to assign Colin Miller to Providence.
“You’re never safe, regardless of what situation you’re in,” Morrow said. “Everybody knows that, and it just keeps people on (their) toes, definitely.”
There’s also the added wrinkle that the NHL trade deadline is less than one week away. Defense has been an area of need for the Bruins all season, and they could decide to shore up their current group by swinging a deal for a more experience blueliner.
“There’s always pressure on you to be able to perform and keep your spot on a hockey team, but that’s management’s decision,” Morrow said, repeating a popular line spouted by players during trade season. “If they need that and they think that that’s what this team needs, then they’re going to go out and get it.
“But pressure’s never a bad thing. It can work to your advantage, and I look at myself as someone that kind of thrives off pressure like that.”
Thumbnail photo via Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow
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