BOSTON — The Boston Bruins have suffered one gut-punch after another this season from the injury bug, and it pummeled them once more Sunday night.
While leaving a team-sponsored event, Bruins star winger David Pastrnak slipped and fell, hurting his thumb. General manager Don Sweeney on Tuesday announced that the B’s will be without Pastrnak — who, with a 31-35-66 line, leads the Bruins in goals, points and assists — for at least two weeks.
It’s far from an ideal situation, as the Bruins have struggled with secondary scoring all season, but seemed to have found a rhythm over the weekend after head coach Bruce Cassidy shuffled the lines. That revamped lineup resulted in Pastrnak skating alongside countryman David Krejci, as well as Peter Cehlarik.
Cassidy noted Tuesday afternoon that the Bruins would make a roster move before their five-game road trip that will take them to the West Coast.
So, what are their options?
Obviously, there’s no replacing a player that can score as prolifically as Pastrnak, so the question becomes: Do the Bruins go for a youngster that’s scoring well in Providence and has upside? Or do they simply plug in a veteran who will do a serviceable job, but that’s about it.
Either way, here are a few names we might hear about.
Providence’s 27-year-old captain logged 12 games in Boston last season in his second year in the organization, recording three assists. He’s slashing 15-11-26 through 43 AHL games this season, earning an All-Star nod after an injury held teammate Ryan Fitzgerald out.
Although he’s playing well in the minors, Szwarz never really has stuck at the pro level, but he’s a safe option. He can center a line or skate on the wing, and like Pastrnak, he has a right shot. The other appeal of Szwarz is that he’s been around long enough to where he likely won’t make some of the mistakes that tend to come with a younger player with little pro experience.
The Bruins scooped up the Boston native in a minor transaction that sent Cody Goloubef to the Ottawa Senators, but the acquisition has worked out well.
Carey has been a point-per-game player in nine contests with the P-Bruins, slashing 5-4-9. Combined with his time with the Belleville Senators before getting traded, Carey leads all Providence players in points (10-26-36). The 30-year-old’s 97 games of NHL experience aren’t insignificant, either. He spent all of the 2016-17 campaign with the New York Rangers, finishing with seven goals and as many assists in 60 games.
What might keep Carey out is that he missed all three of Providence’s games this past weekend with an upper-body injury. It’s unclear if he’ll miss any more time, but if he is healthy, one has to think Carey will earn some consideration.
Remember him? Acquired from the Dallas Stars earlier in the season, Smith went scoreless in three games with Boston before getting scratched for a bit followed by a demotion to the minors.
Since getting bumped down Smith has been a pretty efficient player, going 9-12-21 in 22 games. The 24-year-old long has been a quick, energetic player that can defend well and provide good pressure on the forecheck, and maybe that’s what the Bruins need in Pastrnak’s replacement since the offensive productivity won’t be matched.
Then again, the Bruins don’t exactly have a dearth of bottom-six grinders on the roster, so maybe the goal will be to stay away from that.
We haven’t heard much from Kuhlman since he drew rave reviews at both prospect and training camp prior to the season.
“He’s a little bit of that Swiss Army knife player,” Cassidy said about Kuhlman back in September, via The Boston Herald. “He added some offense, he killed (penalties), added some energy, physical when we needed him to be. He looks like he could be a good depth player. It’s a little tough for us right now with Noel (Acciari) and (Chris) Wagner and those types of guys here but maybe he’s that guy down the road, or maybe he’s a call-up guy for us. I don’t want to rule him out now. That’s not fair. But in general, we’re pretty happy with the bottom of our lineup and that’s probably where he fits.”
In 50 games with Providence this season, the rookie’s scored 12 goals and added 13 more assists. What’s concerning about Kuhlman, though, are the offensive dry spells. He scored in seven of eight games shortly after the turn of the year, for example, then went scoreless for five straight games. He’s not afraid to pull the trigger though, as his 95 shots are second-most on the team.
Still, he seemed to have gotten some folks’ attention prior to the season, so maybe that’ll get the 23-year-old, who played four years of college hockey, a chance with the big club.
Most Bruins fans know the story on Donato by now. He has a pretty good scoring touch and isn’t afraid to shoot, but quiet stretches in the attacking zone coupled with subpar defensive showings led to him getting sent down.
Will this be his next shot with the big club? You really couldn’t draw up a better chance.
(Other names to watch: Cameron Hughes, Ryan Fitzgerald)
Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports