It was a pleasant run of COVID-19 health and safety for the Bruins.
They went 47 days without having someone on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. But at 5 p.m. Wednesday, two hours before dropping the puck against the Capitals at TD Garden, the Bruins placed center Charlie Coyle on the list.
Coach Bruce Cassidy said he learned of Coyle’s unavailability after the team’s morning skate. He did not elaborate.
“Obviously, we’re all trying to get through this thing,” Brad Marchand said. “I think we’ve all been doing a good job so far. Whatever happens with the group, happens with the group. We’re going to keep playing no matter what.”
The change put Anders Bjork in the lineup, as a fourth-line left wing. Jack Studnicka, who was tabbed as the No. 4 center during the morning skate, shifted to the third line to replace Coyle. Sean Kuraly moved back to center, with Bjork and Chris Wagner.
Coyle, who scored twice in Sunday’s win over the Rangers, was present at the morning skate. He was in his usual third-line role, between Trent Frederic and Craig Smith. Coyle, a Weymouth product, went 10 games without a goal, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 21, before he scored against the Flyers in Lake Tahoe. He has a 5-3—8 line in 19 games.
Boston last had a player on the COVID-19 list on Jan. 14, when Karson Kuhlman spent the first two days of the season on it. The list was three players long on Tuesday — a season low — but included three high-profile players: Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, and Nashville’s Ryan Johansen.
Being on the COVID-19 list does not mean a player has contracted the virus. A player can be placed on the list because of, among other factors, an initial positive test that is not confirmed; isolation for symptoms; quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19-positive individuals; travel quarantine; and of course, a confirmed positive test.
David Krejci and Matt Grzelcyk returned to the Bruins’ lineup after several weeks of battling lower-body injuries. Krejci missed the last four games, Grzelcyk the last seven.
“It’s been tough,” said Grzelcyk, who has appeared in six of Boston’s 19 games after setting career offensive marks (4-17—21) in 68 games last season. “Tried not to get too down. It’s been exciting seeing the team come together and playing well. They’ve done a great job of battling through adversity.”
His latest injury is a soft-tissue issue, Grzelcyk said. He didn’t anticipate needing surgery. “The staff’s done a great job. They’ve been with me to work on my posture and stuff like that,” he said. “As soon as I get on the ice, I’m skating how I normally skate.”
Grzelcyk, paired with Brandon Carlo at even strength on Wednesday, worked his usual spot on the No. 1 power-play point. Krejci, with second-line mates Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk, was on the No. 2 power-play unit.
Defenseman Jarred Tinordi, claimed off waivers from the Predators with Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon (broken hand), and Kevan Miller (knee soreness) ailing, made his Bruins debut skating next to Connor Clifton on the third pair.
“We don’t know the player yet,” Cassidy acknowledged, noting that Grzelcyk could eventually move up to the top pair with Charlie McAvoy.
Clifton, always trying to make plays and push the pace, has overextended himself at times. It stands to reason a stay-at-home partner such as TInordi could benefit a younger, more mobile defenseman.
“We’ve given him some rope, but you can’t strangle yourself with that rope,” Cassidy said of Clifton. “You’re always trying to walk that fine line. We want him to be not reckless but aggressive, and play to his strengths … I think we’ve gotten it some of the time, but not every night.”
As for Tinordi’s adjustment, Cassidy said the Predators’ layered defense is similar to the Bruins’ approach in that “they’ll go close off, chase up a little higher” in the defensive zone. With the puck, Tinordi will be expected to make the plays he sees. He will slot in as a penalty killer. “Big body, long stick,” Cassidy said of the 6-foot-6-inch blue liner. “Take care of the front of the net, play your game.”
Before joining the Bruins for Tuesday’s practice, Tinordi drove from Nashville to Boston, according to Cassidy. That’s a 17-hour drive, according to Google Maps.
Grzelcyk, in his fifth season, recalled how kind Zdeno Chara was to him as a younger Bruin. “He was never speaking down to us, always making us feel extremely welcome in the locker room,” Grzelcyk said. “That can be quite nerve-racking when you’re trying to find your way in the league. To have him come up and speak to me about hockey and life in general is something I’ll always cherish.” … The Capitals got a boost when No. 1 center Evgeny Kuznetsov returned after missing two games because of an upper-body injury. He slotted in between Alex Ovechkin and Melrose man Conor Sheary … Greg McKegg, Steve Kampfer, and Urho Vaakanainen were scratches … Cassidy said Providence winger Zach Senyshyn (4-3—7 line in eight games), who has yet to see varsity action this season, remains a call-up candidate. “I can’t predict the future,” Cassidy said. “We certainly haven’t forgotten about Zach.” … TInordi is wearing No. 84, which is in use for the first time with the Bruins. According to hockey-reference.com, the Bruins have not used 11 sweater numbers in regular-season games (66, 69, 78, 85, 87, and anything 93 or higher) … Tinordi became the 12th NHL player to wear No. 84, and the Bruins became the 12th team to issue it … Had the Bruins been held without a shot in the first period, it would have been the fifth time in the expansion era (1967-present), the first since 2017 (April 12, vs. Ottawa), and second time at home (Dec. 21, 2006, vs. Vancouver).