It took Jakub Zboril nearly a month to get more than a one-and-done visit to the Bruins lineup, but the 24-year-old defenseman will suit up for a third consecutive game Saturday night when the Black-and-Gold play in Philadelphia.
Zboril, the club’s top pick in the 2015 draft, rode the last two games — a pair of 5-2 victories over the Devils and Canadiens— with Connor Clifton on the No. 3 pairing. It now looks like he’ll ride Clifton out of the lineup, because coach Bruce Cassidy said Wednesday Mike Reilly will return Saturday after a two-game respite.
It appears then Cassidy has one of two options: pull Clifton and drop Zboril into his spot, with Reilly riding on the left side. Or, though it’s less likely, swap out Derek Forbort for the returning Reilly. .
Cassidy sounded like he would go with option No. 1, which would have Zboril, a lefty stick, playing his off (right) side.
“He’s played right and practiced right,” said Cassidy. “He and Johnny Moore, when he was here, they were both told they had to get work on the right [side]. As partners, one of them had to play right.”
Cassidy underscored to both Zboril and Moore, since demoted to Providence, that he didn’t want the remedy to be to reach down to the WannaBs for relief if one of them were to get injured.
“That’s been in their ear since training camp,” added Cassidy.
Reilly, signed to a three-year $9 million unrestricted free agent deal in July, was bumped out of the lineup last week in favor of Zboril because it appeared the veteran lost some of his game focus. Cassidy noted that Reilly was circling back with the puck too often when he should have been in attack mode, and he also didn’t like that Reilly was leaving too much of the back wall dirty work to his partner.
The return in Philly will measure whether Reilly got the message.
“I told Mike it wouldn’t be long term [out of the lineup],” said Cassidy. “I told him it would depend on how the team responded, et cetera, but he’s part of a D corps that we need to play well — so this was one way to sort of send a message.”
Smith set to return
Craig Smith, sidelined the last two games with a lingering injury, made it through the paces of a full workout and is expected to return to the lineup in Philly.
Next question: where?
With Smith out, Cassidy employed Nick Foligno in his No. 2 right wing spot with linemates Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle. Cassidy liked what he saw of that trio, particularly Foligno’s willingness to get straight to the net, and that could portend Smith dropping to the No. 3 line with Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula.
“I thought Foligno did a super job with that line the other night, in terms of getting to the net,” said Cassidy. “He’s automatically going there. And Taylor’s a guy who likes to have the puck in the offensive zone, so he’ll need someone to go to the net. And Charlie’s used to having [the puck], and Smitty’s a shooter. So it might be that Foligno’s net presence is something they need more.”
A Thursday breather
The Bruins, in the thick of a five-day break between games, will skip their planned Thursday workout and tune up in Brighton on Friday prior to shipping down to Philly . . . Ex-Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who has played 13 games with the Islanders this season, now ranks No. 3 all time for NHL games played (1,621) by a defenseman. If he remains in the lineup, he is on target to set the all-time record (1,652) with the Isles stop in Toronto on Jan. 22. For now, those ahead of Big Z: Scott Stevens (1,635) and Chris Chelios (1,651).
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.