The Bruins entered the season intending to play Ondrej Kase and Jake DeBrusk together on the wings.
With two games to go, there they were again.
For two periods, anyway.
Kase, recovered from a concussion that cost him nearly all of the year, did not finish Monday’s game against the Islanders.
“Upper body,” coach Bruce Cassidy said of Kase, who skated nine shifts for 6:49 in the first two periods, and did not play after the 16:38 mark of the frame.
“He couldn’t finish the game, so that’s never a good sign. We’ll have a better feel in the morning … I’m sure we’ll chat on the plane.”
Cassidy said Kase was unlikely to play in D.C. on Tuesday. Before he left the Islanders game, he was skating well, taking contact, and looked willing. Rather than his original home on the second line, he joined DeBrusk on the fourth line with center Curtis Lazar.
Kase probably would have played anywhere Cassidy put him
“I am ready. I’m ready 100 percent,” Kase said when asked if he thinks he can help the Bruins this postseason. “I skated almost 1½— months, two months. I think my conditioning and everything will be pretty good. I hope I can help the team and I can’t wait.”
The Czech right wing, who suited up for his 20th game (including playoffs) since the Feb. 2020 trade from Anaheim, remembers “everything” from the knock he sustained Jan. 16 in New Jersey, courtesy of Devils winger Miles Wood. It wasn’t necessarily a hard bump.
“I just got a bad hit to the face,” Kase said, his eyes widening and eyebrows rising as he recounted his fourth documented concussion. “I started feeling very bad right away.”
Kase said his recovery was “up and down a lot,” though he put a positive spin on it.
“It was mostly only up,” he said. “But I felt like a month ago, I’m almost there. Two days later, it was like, ‘Oh, no. I can’t do it.’ Lots of ups and downs. Every week was a little bit better.”
Cassidy suspects there could be chemistry between Kase and DeBrusk, the fleet-footed, offensive-minded wingers who rode with Krejci last summer in the Toronto bubble. Kase, who spent all of training camp in COVID protocol, recorded a quiet four assists in 11 games.
“Keep your shifts short,” Cassidy said. “Play with your head up and try not to overdo it. Get back into the flow of playing hockey with bodies and people flying around you. You don’t get that in practice the same as you do in a game. That’s the only message to him.”
Now comes the fun part
Kevan Miller’s most recent playoff game was May 6, 2018, the deciding game of the Bruins’ second-round loss to the Lightning.
If all goes according to plan, he’ll play in every playoff game from here on out.
“If there’s back-to-back or something like that, it’s part of the gig and I’ll be playing,” said the rugged defenseman, who is averaging 19:12 in 27 games (1-3—4). During this season’s morning skates and back-to-backs, he rested a surgically repaired right knee that, he revealed Monday, has yet to finish healing. He missed a total of 27 games with further setbacks.
“The most fun is playoff hockey,” he said. “That’s what I’ve missed the most. That’s when the bonds get really tight with your teammates and guys are laying it on the line every night. That’s kind of why I play.”
Miller on Monday was named the Bruins’ Masterton Trophy nominee for the second year in a row. The award, for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport, is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The PHWA chapter in each NHL city picks a candidate.
“It’s been a long road,” said Miller, who has had four knee surgeries since breaking his right kneecap on April 4, 2019. After breaking it again some seven weeks later, he spent all of last year recovering. His first game in 651 days was the opener.
Chris Wagner back in lineup
Chris Wagner played his first game after missing the previous five with an undisclosed injury. He replaced Karson Kuhlman as the No. 3 right wing, with Nick Ritchie and Sean Kuraly … Come the weekend, the Bruins expect that spot to be filled once again by Charlie Coyle, who took a puck up high last Tuesday against the Devils. He missed his third consecutive game with an upper body injury, and is unlikely to play in Tuesday’s regular season finale at Washington … Four former Bruins were Masterton nominees in their current cities: David Backes in Anaheim, Phil Kessel in Arizona, Milan Lucic in Calgary, and Zdeno Chara in Washington … The Bruins planned to come home from D.C. after Tuesday’s game, rather than remain in town for Game 1 against the Capitals this weekend … On Black Monday in the NHL, Cassidy said he would make phone calls if needed, on behalf of any of his assistant coaches who had an outside opportunity: “It happened for me” … Patrice Bergeron landed a game-high 5 of his 8 attempts and finished at 88 percent (15 of 17) at the dot … DeBrusk (4 shots) had a few golden scoring chances, but didn’t finish … Charlie McAvoy (5 hits, 4 blocks in 24:06) got into a wrestling match with Brock Nelson and took a pair of penalties.