BOSTON — Though it won’t be Saturday night, Connor Clifton at long last is eligible to play again.
The Boston Bruins have activated the second-year defenseman from injured reserve. The 24-year-old hasn’t played since sustaining an upper body injury early on in a Dec. 29 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
As a result of Clifton’s activation, Karson Kuhlman will be sent down to the AHL’s Providence Bruins.
With the emergence of Jeremy Lauzon, Clifton now has a bit more competition if he wants to crack the lineup. John Moore has been healthy scratched much of the last month, so save for injuries, it effectively will be Clifton and Moore trying to unseat Lauzon on the third pairing down the stretch. If Brandon Carlo is out for any length of time as well, that will open up a spot like it did for Moore on Saturday night.
The Bruins actually weren’t required to send down Kuhlman. Upon the conclusion of the trade deadline, teams are only required to be salary cap compliant, but there’s no limit on roster size. With that in mind, it seems the thinking might’ve been that Kuhlman would benefit from playing regularly with Providence as opposed to going in and out of the lineup with Boston.
Kuhlman, Anders Bjork and Anton Blidh have been healthy scratched often following the Bruins’ acquisitions of Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, so things were getting crowded on the ninth level with all the extra forwards. It only makes sense to allow Kulhman, who still is waivers exempt, to get sent down.
When exactly Clifton gets in next remains to be seen. After Saturday’s meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston’s next matchup will be against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. If Carlo still is unavailable, there’s a chance Clifton could sneak in then.