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Bruins are starting training camp with a couple of lines very much in flux

Depending on how quickly Charlie Coyle recovers from knee surgery, Jack Studnicka (above) could get a shot at second-line center.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

If all goes well for Charlie Coyle over the next 3½ weeks, he would finish his recovery from knee surgery and work himself into game shape. By the second shift of the Bruins’ Oct. 16 opener against Dallas, the Weymouth product would roll over the boards with Taylor Hall and Craig Smith, completing the second line.

Until then, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy will look at a few other options as his No. 2 center. Coyle reported to training camp in the “limited” category Wednesday and will not skate with his teammates in Thursday’s first practice session at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton. He could join the main group next week. His availability for the exhibition slate — which begins Sunday in Washington — is unknown.


That means Cassidy could have a longer look at Jack Studnicka, who might open camp as the pivot man for Hall and Smith. He’s also looking for wingers for Erik Haula, who has the inside track for the No. 3 center job. Another veteran newcomer, Nick Foligno, has played some center in his 15-year NHL career, but at this point looks like an emergency fill-in.

What sort of role will Jack Studnicka have on this year's Bruins' team?Barry Chin/Globe Staff

“We don’t have to put him in the middle right away,” Cassidy said. “He’s played left wing, right wing, center. There’s a little bit of leeway there. He’s been in the league a long time, so it’s about getting his individual game [up to speed].”

The Bruins hope that Studnicka, who can also play right wing, will use his added muscle appropriately. The club did not issue a detailed roster of camp attendees — just names — but Studnicka, 22, will be listed as bulkier than last season’s 6 feet 1 inch and 171 pounds. The Bruins hope his development mirrors that of David Pastrnak, who was knocked down regularly as a 6-foot, 167-pound 18-year-old rookie. Now a 25-year-old 194-pound man, he gets the better of would-be checkers more often than not.


“If you’re just packing it on to have more corner weight, so to speak, it can affect your ability to recover strength on the puck,” Cassidy said, noting that the Bruins asked Studnicka to focus training his core to absorb the “chip hits,” where a defender gets a piece of him.

“Jack has a willingness to go into traffic,” Cassidy said. “He likes to play in there. He likes to have the puck around the net, those dirty areas. You’ve got to be strong on it if you’re going to be at your best.”

Cassidy said he’s trying to “find some wingers” for the left-shooting Haula, who prefers to play in the middle. Whether with Hall and Smith, or Jake DeBrusk and Foligno on the third line, stability could benefit Haula. The 30-year-old Finn is suiting up for his fifth team in four seasons.

Haula, who came up as Coyle’s teammate in Minnesota, has 21 goals and 45 points in 99 games with Vegas, Carolina, Florida, and Nashville the last three years. A major reason for the dropoff: a November 2018 knee injury that limited him to 15 games that season.

It was a disappointment following his career-best 29-26—55 line with the expansion “Golden Misfits” in Vegas the previous year. That year, Haula was a speedy, opportunistic finisher and offensive driver for his club’s second line. His timing with David Perron and Jonathan Marchessault led to some fantastic strikes. Haula relished attacking off the rush, put himself in quality shooting positions, and showed a quick stick around the net. Coach Gerard Gallant was eager to use the line in the offensive zone.


Erik Haula signed with the Bruins for two years at $2.375 million per season.Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Since Haula’s injury, he has been deployed in the defensive zone more often, using his 6-foot, 194-pound body to throw more hits (more than six per 60 minutes in the last two years, after two per 60 minutes in the two years prior).

If Haula, who signed for two years at $2.375 million per, has brought some of his former quickness and agility to camp, a Hall-Haula-Smith second line could win a lot of footraces. As a third-line pair, Haula and DeBrusk could make opponents sweat in transition.

Others auditioning for spots in the middle include ex-Golden Knight Tomas Nosek (two years at $1.75 million per), who could start as the No. 4 center, and holdovers Trent Frederic and Curtis Lazar.

Cassidy doesn’t expect to find David Krejci’s replacement this week, or next week, or the following week.

“I think every team goes through some level [of tinkering] the first 10, 12, 15 games,” he said. “Hopefully it squares itself away sooner rather than later. As you know, we like to try different things later on when the team is going well. So hopefully we get to that spot quickly.”

Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.