WILMINGTON — Had the Bruins been fighting for a playoff spot Thursday against Phoenix, it’s likely that Torey Krug would have been in the lineup. Krug is the triggerman on the No. 1 power-play unit and leads the team with 18 man-up points.
But for a number of reasons, leading with the Bruins’ likely status as a top-two playoff seed, Krug was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. He had been the only defenseman on the team to dress for all 65 previous games.
“You always want to play and you always want to compete,” said Krug. “There’s a competitive nature in all of us here. We want to play every single game.
“You get a little bit upset. But at the same time, it’s a long season. I’m one of the guys on the back end who’s been in every game. So those moments of rest are important, especially in a month like this.”
On Friday, the day after back-to-back games against Montreal and Phoenix, most of the team went through off-ice workouts. Krug and Dougie Hamilton, a healthy scratch against Montreal Wednesday and Florida last Sunday, skated at Ristuccia Arena. The third defenseman was Corey Potter, the ex-Oiler who hasn’t played since the Bruins claimed him off waivers March 5.
Krug and Hamilton made their respective visits to the press box because of the addition of Andrej Meszaros. The former Flyer replaced Hamilton as Zdeno Chara’s right-hand man against Florida and Montreal. Meszaros also took over Hamilton’s position as the point man on the No. 2 power-play unit.
Against Phoenix, Meszaros claimed Krug’s left-side position on the No. 3 pairing next to Kevan Miller. Meszaros also manned Krug’s spot on the first PP.
With a month remaining in the regular season, the Bruins are taking a close look at Meszaros as well as ramping up his conditioning. Because he can play both sides, Meszaros gives the team options.
However, it’s no guarantee that Meszaros will be in the postseason lineup. Krug’s PP skills are too important even if they’ve been quiet lately (he has no power-play points in his last seven games, as the Bruins went 3 for 16 on the man-advantage).
The Bruins have the No. 6 power play in the NHL (20.7 percent). But they’ve had only 188 power plays, fewest in the league. In comparison, San Jose and Washington entered Friday tied with a league-leading 243.
“We’re getting good looks,” Krug said. “If you’re not scoring, you can always be better. You’ve just got to bear down. We’ve got to score when we get opportunities. That’s the bottom line.”
If Krug isn’t clicking on the power play, he doesn’t have much impact on the game. According to extraskater.com, Krug has started only 24.3 percent of his five-on-five shifts in the defensive zone. It is the lowest such percentage among the team’s defensemen. Krug’s deployment underscores how the coaches hide him in defensive situations.
Krug’s quiet offensive stretch may also reflect wear and tear. He is the team’s smallest defenseman.
“Torey’s been good,” said coach Claude Julien. “Torey still has some things we continue to work with. But it was a great opportunity for him to get some rest.
“It’s been a long year. He hadn’t missed a game yet. He’s not a big, tall body. Those things benefit those players at the same time.”
Before Meszaros’s arrival, Krug didn’t have competition for his position. Now he does. That’s never a bad thing.
Lindblad may play
It’s a good bet that Matt Lindblad will make his NHL debut Saturday against Carolina. The Bruins recalled the three-year Dartmouth forward from Providence Friday. Lindblad, Daniel Paille, and Jordan Caron were the only forwards to skate.
Lindblad projects to be a bottom-six NHLer. The undrafted collegian is a smart left-shot forward who has 7 goals and 15 assists in 43 games for Providence. The Bruins could carry Lindblad as a spare forward in the playoffs.
“We’re going to have a look at him,” Julien said. “We talk about playoffs around the corner. You talk about depth. Right now we’ve got 13 forwards here.
Lindblad was the first player the Bruins promoted from Providence after the trade deadline. They can make three more non-emergency recalls before the end of the regular season.
Paille feeling good
Paille should be ready to play Saturday after missing the last two games because of a concussion. He skated for the third straight day Friday. It was Paille’s second concussion of the season. He missed seven games in December. “To this point, I’ve done everything that’s been asked,” Paille said of following recovery protocol. “I haven’t had any issues.”
On Thursday, the Bruins allowed their third breakaway in the last two games. Shane Doan pulled away from Hamilton and Chara but was turned back by Tuukka Rask. The night before, Rask foiled breakaways by Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. Chara was on the ice for two of the three. He does not have high-end speed to chase down breakaways. But Julien noted both defensemen have to be aware when opponents look to stretch out the Bruins. “There’s been times we’ve been caught napping on those,” Julien said. “One of them [against Phoenix] was one D going in wanting to be the fourth guy. The other guy, instead of being the backup guy, is at the same level.That’s something we need to rectify with our back end.” . . . Rask didn’t skate Friday. Chad Johnson should get Saturday’s start.