It’s been a minute since we’ve seen Nick Ritchie in a game situation.
But he was brought in to be a contributor in the postseason, and now that he’s cleared to go, he’ll get his first crack at doing just that Wednesday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Ritchie bumps Jack Studnicka from the lineup and will skate on the second line left wing opposite Karson Kuhlman with David Krejci between them. It’s an interesting line combination, as Krejci generally benefits from playing with guys that are a little more offensively dynamic than Ritchie and Kuhlman, though that’s not to say they’re completely void of ability in the attacking end.
Regardless, head coach Bruce Cassidy appears to be keeping his expectations tempered because, well, he doesn’t know what to expect from a guy that hasn’t played in some time.
“Well he hasn’t played, so that’s the problem right now. We don’t know where he’s at because, like a lot of these guys coming out of the restart, some guys have found their game quicker than others,” Cassidy said. “The easy answer is usually the guys that are a little more fluid, more Ferrari like than locomotive like will find it quicker. So, we’re going to allow Ritchie to find — he’s a big man, so he’s going to have to get his legs under him first and foremost. Game situations. I don’t think he tried to do too much, honestly, even when he got here. I think he knows what he is. He’s a big winger that protects pucks down low. He’s got a good shot. We’d like to see him get some opportunities, to put himself in spots where he can find the puck from Krech and Coyle or whoever he plays with, and finish some chances.
“He’s going to give you some toughness, we want him to be in on the forecheck when he’s able to take the body, take it,” Cassidy continued. “If not, have a good stick. Where he’s learning our system is in d-zone, we play a little different than where he came from in Anaheim. There’s some positional things that we’re going to remind him of, that he’ll have to grasp at some point. My expectation is that he’ll play hard tonight, he’ll be on pucks, he’ll make a few plays. Hopefully there are some offensive opportunities for him. He’s going to play on the second power play unit, see where it takes us.”
Ritchie was unavailable for much of the final week of training camp, as well as the Bruins’ first week in Toronto — and it’s unclear exactly why. But he’s been back skating, and eventually practicing, for a little over a week.
Puck drop for Bruins-Lightning is set for 4 p.m. ET.