David Pastrnak, who was absent from all practices during Camp Renaissance the past two weeks in Brighton, was aboard the Bruins flight to Toronto Sunday evening and earmarked to skate in the full-team workout there Monday afternoon.
However, Pastrnak’s fellow Czech right winger, Ondrej Kase, was deemed unfit to make the trip and, according to coach Bruce Cassidy, will join his Black-and-Gold brethren at a later date.
“We were short one guy,” noted Cassidy, confirming that both Pastrnak and Nick Ritchie made the flight to the hub away from the Hub. “Ondrej was not on the plane.”
Cassidy added that Pastrnak would practice — with longtime linemates Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron — but Ritchie would be absent. Ritchie missed the final three workouts in Boston for unspecified reasons.
Per the NHL’s return-to-play regulations negotiated in May, Kase faces a four-day quarantine in Toronto before he is eligible to join in practices or games. It’s safe to rule him out of Thursday’s exhibition game vs. the Blue Jackets.
The Bruins, in keeping with league policy, have not revealed health conditions of their players since practices resumed July 13. Pastrnak’s agent confirmed nearly two weeks ago that his client was placed in quarantine, presumably a 10-day stint that began July 15 or 16.
It’s likely that Kase, a close pal of Pastrnak’s, also has been in quarantine, and may not have passed his COVID-19 test Sunday morning, when the club’s traveling party of 50-plus was expected to be tested prior to the flight.
The Bruins also were without team captain Zdeno Chara for their first skate in Toronto.
Chara was held off the ice, according to the club, because of a delay in the results of the COVID-19 test he took Sunday.
If Big Z’s all-clear comes overnight, he would be able rejoin the club for Tuesday’s workout. He did not miss a day of camp the last two weeks in Brighton. If the test proves positive, he would be forced to quarantine in place and not return to action until he were deemed COVID-free.
Chara, Kase, and Ritchie were the three players who did not skate on Monday.
The inclusion of Pastrnak in team drills is perhaps the most significant development of the past two-plus weeks. He hammered home 48 goals, equaling Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the league lead, by the time the NHL went dark March 12. It would be a gargantuan stretch to think the Bruins could become repeat Stanley Cup finalists without Pasta on the postseason menu.
“Young guy, typically in good shape,” noted Cassidy. “We’ll mix him in with Bergy and Marchy on line rushes. No plans to scrimmage [Monday]. Get our legs back under us, get acclimated, so for him it’s more worry about himself than worry what line he’s on. That’s the plan with David. We’ll see how he progresses.”
Pastrnak was hardly in a deep sleep throughout the league’s forced hibernation. In fact, in the days leading up to the start of camp, he and Kase skated a number of times with a group of amateurs and minor pros at a rink in Malden.
Oddly, they opted to skate independently while many of their teammates chose the standard Phase 2 protocol and skated together — in a soft bubble — at Warrior Arena. One possible explanation: Perhaps they failed to clear quarantine standards after returning to the US from Czechia. Whatever their reasons, it all stands to be an afterthought if the 24-year-old Pastrnak returns with the kind of thump that saw him deliver a 9-10—19 line in 24 playoff games last season.
“He looks great — probably needs a haircut,” said Cassidy. “Other than that, I expect him to be ready to go and excited to be back with his teammates.
“You know Pasta. He loves the game. He loves being around his teammates. He’s got lots of personality, very gregarious young guy. It will be good to have him back. I expect he’ll pick up fairly quickly. But until we see him in the drills, that’s tough to tell.”
Typically, said Bergeron, the high-scoring line has required little time to regenerate chemistry after a layoff of any length.
“For [Pastrnak], it’s just going to be getting used to getting back on the ice and skating and getting his rhythm and timing back,” said the veteran pivot. “We’ll try to help him as much as we can.
“I don’t know if he really needs that much help. He’s one of those guys, he gets back and he’s so talented, it always seems effortless. He might be rusty a little bit, but that being said, we have a little bit of time before we start.”
Following their lone exhibition game Thursday, the Bruins on Sunday begin a string of non-elimination games that wrap up Aug. 9. The won’t enter traditional postseason play (the Round of 16) until Aug. 11 or 12.
Last week, with Pastrnak and Kase both on the sideline, Anders Bjork filled Pastrnak’s spot on the top line and rookie Jack Studnicka slotted in for Kase on the Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci unit. Cassidy liked what he saw of both, but he would prefer to go with the two Czechs as his top-six right wingers.
“Pasta enjoys himself out there,” said Sean Kuraly, who has lined up of late as Charlie Coyle’s left winger on the No. 3 line. “I don’t know if you ever catch him without a smile on his face. He’s a fun guy to have out there.
“He brings his talents and skills, but he’s also a valued member of our team. He’s a fun guy to have out there for practice.”
The NHL on Monday named Bergeron among the 31 players — one from each team — as a nominee for this year’s King Clancy Memorial Trophy, first awarded in 1988 to the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
Earlier this month, Bergeron, who was named the Clancy winner in 2013, was named one of the three finalists for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward for the ninth time in his career.
Two other Bruins, Ray Bourque (‘92) and Dave Poulin (’93), have been Clancy winners.
Cassidy, Bergeron, Kuraly, and Chara all chatted with reporters for a few minutes Monday morning, their first Zoom sessions with the media since arriving in Toronto.
The daily Zoomers will be the only guaranteed media access throughout the postseason tournament. If something significant happened in the Monday workout, for instance, it could go completely unreported, depending on whether the league’s reporting contingent — staff members of nhl.com —was there to witness it.
Keep in mind, in the early going, each of the 12 teams in Toronto will practice each day. It would be impractical to expect nhl.com to have a reporter or editor at each workout
No members of the independent Boston media corps, including the Globe, felt there was value in assigning a reporter to Toronto when the only access to players, coaches, or management would be via Zoom. For the Globe, it will be the first time in decades, perhaps dating to World War II, that it has not assigned a staff reporter to a Bruins postseason game.
With Kase out of the mix, the Bruins went into the workout with 16 forwards, 10 defensemen, and four goaltenders … Look for Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak to get a near 50-50 split of the minutes in Thursday’s game … Of the 31 players on the ice Monday, 13 were US-born and 10 of them played Division 1 NCAA hockey …The NHL announced Monday that not a single one of its 800-plus players tested positive for COVID-19 over the week of July 18-25. For the entire two-week camps, there were only two positive tests out of a total 6,874 … Marchand said Saturday that he expected a lot of “sloppy” hockey in the postseason, mainly as a consequence of such a long respite. Kuraly didn’t sound convinced. “I’ve been thinking about that,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a little bit different than usual — maybe it will look a little bit sloppier, or maybe the intensity will be even higher, ramped up, because we’ve had some rest. I think it will be fun to be involved and I think, at the end of the day, I’m excited to be here and playing, and lucky to be able to finish the season.”