Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy tinkered with the practice lines Friday, moving Trent Frederic up to the third line and dropping Anders Bjork to the fourth. He had a conversation with Bjork to explain his reason for the move.
“We’ve talked about this,” Cassidy said Friday. “If you are going to be an offensive player, then you need to generate offense. Simple as that.”
The Bruins have scored just seven goals this season, 29th in the league. They went 11 periods without an even-strength goal before scoring three in the third period Thursday against the Flyers. Bjork is minus-1 in 11:21 of average ice time.
“To generate offense, you’ve got to get inside, you’ve got to beat some people one-on-one, you got to win your puck battles, make plays, all those things. And it’s been hit or miss a little bit.”
Coming into the season, Cassidy considered using Bjork in the role that Joakim Nordstrom left behind after signing a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames in October, but injuries changed that.
“The discussion was about originally how we can best create an identity for himself, solidify a spot in the lineup,“ Cassidy said. “But that role’s a little different. You’re playing against good players every night. [Bjork’s] got to be real accountable defensively. I think he is a good defensive player.”
Cassidy said he was confident in the fourth line and the fit might be best for Bjork. He left room for Bjork to move back to the third line in the future, while also praising the job Frederic did with the same group.
“Freddie, on the other hand, has done a good job in that fourth line so you’ve got to be careful,” Cassidy said. “The message to him was don’t change what you’re doing. Be hard on pucks, be in people’s faces, get to the front of the net. Again, we’re going to work with Freddie.”
The difference between Bjork and Frederic, Cassidy said, is experience. Frederic is in his third season, still handling the learning curve. In his fourth season, Bjork is at the point where Cassidy believes he should have a sense of who he is.
“He’s been around, so a little bit falls on the player to carve out his identity,” Cassidy said. “The players that do, tend to find themselves in a spot. So it’s a shared responsibility between us and the player. And that was the end of the conversation.”
With David Pastrnak’s return imminent, Cassidy said there is some urgency for Bjork to carve out a role for himself.
“You want to be in the lineup first, then you want your ice time, then you want more responsibility,” Cassidy said. “For Anders, he’s got to find his identity where he can best help the team, play to his strengths as much as possible within the framework of the team. So he’s kind of at that, and we as coaches are trying to build his confidence, but we’re trying to win hockey games.
“If the expectation, which it is for us, is to get to the Stanley Cup and win it, then then we’ve got to make sure we’re doing what’s right for the other 19 guys as well. So that’s the coach’s job to balance that. We’re trying to do the best we can in that regard to keep Anders on board and get him to play well. But if guys come in and pass him, that’s also the circle of life. We’ve seen that in a lot of different positions here and that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
Grzelcyk sits out as precaution
Matt Grzelcyk didn’t take the ice Friday after slamming into the boards in the second period Thursday, but Cassidy said the defenseman will try again at morning skate Saturday and expects him to play in the rematch against the Flyers at TD Garden.
“Nothing serious this morning, knock on wood,” Cassidy said. “But let’s keep him off and get him ready for [Saturday].”
Grzelcyk was already dealing with a left shoulder issue after getting tangled up and falling awkwardly in Monday’s loss to the Islanders.
Cassidy said that while Grzelcyk’s issues this season have been incidental and unfortunate, he will have to keep a close eye on the fifth-year veteran and try to be cautious.
“You never tell the player to pace themselves, but you know, keep yourself out of those tough positions,” Cassidy said. “I think the injury yesterday, he just lost an edge. I don’t think you can do anything about that one. That was just unfortunate. His minutes will be up this year. We knew that going in, but we thought that they would be not as difficult minutes.”
Through four games, Grzelcyk has had 14:05 of total ice time on the power play and while those minutes can be taxing on the legs, Cassidy said the physicality isn’t typically an issue in that situation. But all the overtime minutes the team has logged this season can take a toll.
“So that probably skews the numbers a little bit,” Cassidy said. “So let’s get back to a normal sort of routine here. We’re not in overtime every night.”
Cassidy said he wanted to keep Grzelcyk’s minutes at around 20 per game. He is averaging 19:44 through four games.
“So that should alleviate some of the physical duress on Grizz because he’s an important part of our team,” Cassidy said. “We do want to make sure that he’s not putting himself in harm’s way every night. But then again, he’s got to play hockey. And if he has the puck a lot, there’s a chance he’s going to get hit. So he just has to be mindful when to move it and when to hang on to it.”
Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci all got maintenance days.
Coyle showing leadership
When Zdeno Chara moved on to Washington, the mantle of Bruins captain was handed to Bergeron. But as the locker room adjusts, Charlie Coyle has found himself taking on a greater leadership role in his third year in Boston. “I think that goes kind of for a lot of different guys,” he said. “Everyone’s got to bring their own type of leadership. It’s not just the guy with the C or the A’s or the older guys. We need more guys stepping up, especially when we have a couple of guys who were great leaders for us who aren’t here anymore. [We’ve] got to take it upon ourselves to kind of take a piece of that and grow.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.