Charlie Coyle will make his preseason debut on Wednesday during the Bruins’ final tuneup against the Capitals.
The presumptive No. 2 center will slide between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith, into the spot held by rookie Jack Studnicka while Coyle has been rehabbing from offseason knee surgery.
This does not mean, however, that Studnicka is out of the plans. Coach Bruce Cassidy said a final decision has not been made on where Studnicka will play this season. He could crack the lineup as a right wing — or, he could push Coyle out of the second center spot.
“We didn’t win the Cup last year,” Cassidy said. “We’re not set in stone. If guys want to push for spots, we’ll make room for you.
“We’ll have to take a look after Wednesday. Do we push someone to the wing or not? That’ll be a conversation. We like how we are in the middle of the ice. But if our lineup looks better because we think [Studnicka] is ready and we have to move someone around, we’ll do it.”
Patrice Bergeron, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek fill out the rest of the Bruins’ center depth.
Coyle said he has caught up to his teammates in the weight room, the solo rehab portion of his offseason complete. All that is left is developing chemistry with Smith and Hall, the latter of whom he didn’t play with last year.
“I feel great,” Coyle said. “You always can think back to, I wish I was healthy this summer so I could get more reps in and work on things more. But the main thing is being 100 percent ready to go for Game 1. I know that’s where I am and that’s where I’m going to be when that time comes. That’s most important in my mind.”
He’s enjoyed seeing what Studnicka, 22, has shown in his absence. Cassidy praised Studnicka for his commitment to two-way hockey, the lack of turnovers, and the elimination of overly-creative plays that might not work at the NHL level. That Studnicka looks like a legitimate substitute is not lost on Coyle.
“That’s what you need. I think that’s what good teams have,” Coyle said. “Every day, I think, you should feel a little pressure, whether it’s younger guys or older guys trying to make a push. That’s what makes us guys ahead, I guess, play better because if you don’t, they’re coming up. That’s the mind-set you have to have: You have to bring it every day or someone else is going to take your spot.”
Minding the net
Cassidy said he has not yet decided who will get the opening-night start in goal. If preseason numbers are the guideline, Jeremy Swayman would face the Stars on Oct. 16.
The rookie followed his 10-game debut last year by stopping 68 of 73 shots (.932 save percentage) in three preseason appearances. He saved 18 of 21 high-danger shots, according to Natural Stat Trick.
“He looks sharp,” Cassidy said. “He picked up where he left off. The goals that are getting by him are good goals. He’s sealing well and challenging how he needs to.”
Linus Ullmark, who has allowed six goals on 32 shots in two starts (.813), will get a final chance to find his game.
“Some of that could be ramping it up a little bit,” Cassidy said of Ullmark’s slow start to the preseason. “He didn’t finish last year playing [with an injury]. … They’re both going to see time in October.”
Blue line learning
Defensemen Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen weren’t on the ice with either practice group, which saw the roster split into, essentially, varsity and JV. Vaakanainen, Cassidy said, is dealing with an upper-body injury. He hasn’t skated since Friday.
Zboril, who is healthy, was given the day off after playing Monday in Philadelphia. That allowed the Bruins to take a look at Brady Lyle, who was paired with Matt Grzelcyk.
“We like Brady,” Cassidy said of the free agent signing. “He’s not quite there yet, but wanted to give him an opportunity to skate with our guys.”
Lyle, who projects as a top-pair defenseman in Providence and one of the first right-shot reserves, will need to learn the details of defending at the pro level. Cassidy noted he showed “extremely well” in the preseason physical testing.
The Bruins waived forwards Cameron Hughes and Joona Koppanen and defenseman Tyler Lewington, all of whom are expected to clear and report to Providence … Cassidy said he would dress five of his top six defensemen (Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Derek Forbort, Mike Reilly, and Grzlecyk) against the Capitals. After his top three lines were given Monday night off, most or all of those players are expected to dress on Wednesday.