The Boston Bruins haven’t had a whole lot of stability up front, so despite being a month into the season, there’s plenty of tweaking and adjusting still being done to find the right mix of forwards.
Craig Smith is expected to return Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, which could restart the process again.
Boston’s second line over the last few games had consisted of Charlie Coyle, Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno. That trio showed promise, but left the third line with a dearth of impact offensive players, meaning the bottom six basically became interchangeable. That addition of Smith back into the lineup completely changes the dynamic of the second, third and fourth lines.
The primary decision Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has to make is which right winger goes on what line between Foligno and Smith. Foligno has been a good fit on that Hall-Coyle line, so it might make sense to keep him there. That would allow for Smith to play with Erik Haula and Jake DeBrusk, which checks out logically with the addition of Smith giving that line a pure scorer.
If that is indeed how things shake out, the fourth line still has to be adjusted. The most likely scenario is Curtis Lazar on the right wing with Tomas Nosek centering the line, leaving Anton Blidh as the front-runner at left wing. Trent Frederic doesn’t appear ready to return just yet, but he also would figure into the equation on the left if healthy. If there is a desire to keep Karson Kuhlman in the lineup, then Nosek probably would have to move to the left wing, with Lazar centering and Kuhlman on the right.
Getting Smith back is a big plus for the Bruins, even if he is off to a bumpy start this season. Now, it’s just a matter of figuring out where all the pieces fit.