What’s Next For Bruins’ Third Line? Bruce Cassidy Hints At Changes

'We're running out of runway'

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The Boston Bruins were able to find some secondary scoring at the NHL trade deadline. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods with their forwards ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The addition of Taylor Hall balanced Boston’s top-six forwards. David Pastrnak is back on the first line, and it’s seemingly a matter of time before that trio finds it way again. Meanwhile, the addition of Hall has revitalized David Krejci and elongated Craig Smith’s hot streak.

However, Boston hasn’t gotten much scoring beyond that from its forwards.

Charlie Coyle hasn’t scored since Feb. 28. Nick Ritchie has one goal in his last 14 games. Jake DeBrusk hasn’t found the back of the net since moving down to skate alongside Coyle and Ritchie on the third line.

Even for a line whose offensive expectations were further diminished by the trade deadline moves, that’s not enough.

As such, head coach Bruce Cassidy looks ready to tinker with his lines. Cassidy had usual fourth-line forward Sean Kuraly centering the third line Monday in Pittsburgh. Coyle moved to the wing and rotated in with DeBrusk.

“We’re trying to help some players who are struggling a little bit get going, so you miove them around sometimes,” Cassidy told reporters after practice Monday. “Sometimes it’s at their behest, sometimes it’s coach’s decisions. We seem to have identified our top two, specifically our second scoring line, so what do we want out of our third and fourth now? It’s getting to the point of the year — whatever you can do to help us a) get in the playoffs and then become a harder team to play against once you’re in the playoffs. You’ve gotta start thinking about some of that stuff while staying in the moment.”

Cassidy didn’t say whether Coyle or DeBrusk will be out Tuesday night against the Penguins. He did, however, talk about how a move to the wing could maybe get Coyle going again.

“Charlie hasn’t found it offensively in a while here, so again, as I alluded to earlier, sometimes there are conversations where it’s, ‘Yeah, let’s do that and maybe it will get me going, shooting more,’ ” Cassidy explained. “We’ve done that with Charlie in the past. We’ve said how we like our lineup to look.”

Another X factor in the discussion is the new-look fourth line. Curtis Lazar has done a nice job providing energy as a fourth-line pivot, which makes it easier to move Kuraly to the third line.

“By the same token, we acquired a guy in (Curtis) Lazar who can play fourth-line center,” Cassidy added. “Let’s see where he’s at. Maybe he becomes a guy that moves up later; there are lot of different options. To label them third line vs. fourth, those players in the bottom six, we’re trying to define them as certain types of energy guys. Be physical, chip in offensively, let’s not worry about your goal totals to this point this year. There are always players on every team who are a little bit above, a little bit below. Now it’s almost like, ‘Hey, we’ve got nine games left. Let’s get an identity and see how it goes.’ We’ve tried different things there, but we’re running out of runway. That’s a little bit of where (Kuraly) is for (Tuesday). We’ll see how he handles it.”

If Kuraly can’t jump-start the third line, it might be back to the drawing board for Cassidy and the Bruins with the playoffs rapidly approaching.

Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images

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