After doubling the time Jake DeBrusk spent as a spectator from the last time he was healthy scratched, Bruce Cassidy is ready to insert the winger back into the lineup.
It’s been a bumpy season for DeBrusk, who has struggled at times to make an impact on the game in addition to his scoring woes (4-7-11 this season). The last time he returned to game action after getting healthy scratched, he looked like he was shot out of a cannon. He, understandably, stagnated quickly though, as he soon thereafter landed in the COVID-19 protocols.
Cassidy is hoping the time away will help DeBrusk.
“Hopefully Jake, a little time away, have some time to watch up top sometimes players take (something away) from that,” Cassidy told reporters before the game over Zoom. “Other times, it doesn’t happen that way. So we just want him to be grateful for his spot in the lineup, just help us win, Jake. Get out there and play to your strengths and we’ll coach you up on the things that you need to get better on. Just be one of 20 guys to help us win.”
The healthy scratch route is a direction Cassidy has gone in before with DeBrusk. As for the messaging, he doesn’t necessarily think that needs to be changed.
“I’m not going to say there’s a blueprint, everyone’s different,” Cassidy said. “But (the messaging usually starts with) minutes, it’s video, it’s talking to him on the bench, it’s challenging the player. And then it becomes, the one thing every player likes is playing time, so then you start taking some of that away. Responsibility — maybe it’s off the power play or penalty kill, whatever it is — so less minutes. Then it becomes no minutes, you’re upstairs, and now we’re at the point where there’s only so much you can do to get the message across that you need better whatever it is you’re looking for.
“In our case, and we’ve said this, we need better second effort. In forecheck situations and puck recovery situations and attack situations, because I feel it’s a second effort league. The guys that have second effort will have much more success in this league the sooner they figure that out … .
“You need to have that second effort, that’s always been the message for the most part with Jake and it continues to be. So hopefully he takes advantage of it, his situation today, and gives us a little more of that and grows his game. That’s the message as clear as I can make it, that’s been told to Jake it’s been told to other players as well that don’t get into the lineup every day.”
DeBrusk is replacing Trent Frederic in the lineup, meaning he will be on the fourth line with Curtis Lazar and Karson Kuhlman. Perhaps playing with two high-energy players like Lazar and Kuhlman, coupled with the recent stint as a spare part, will be what the 24-year-old needs to get back on track.