The Providence pipeline, believed to be capped because of COVID-19 concerns, delivered a pair of Black and Gold roster candidates to Boston on Saturday morning, with defenseman Jack Ahcan and forward Oskar Steen reporting to duty ahead of the 3-2, overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Garden.
The move came hours before the team announced Charlie McAvoy would be unavailable due to a non-COVID illness. The club’s No. 1 blue liner did not participate in the team’s 15-minute, late-morning workout in Brighton.
Acting head coach Joe Sacco had held out hope that McAvoy could suit up against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs. Instead, Ahcan, the free agent signed out of St. Cloud State, stepped into a pairing with Derek Forbort.
Ahcan finished with 15:31 in ice time, the lightest workload among the backliners. He did not factor on the scoresheet, but he landed two of the eight shots defensemen put on Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Connor Clifton was second in ice time with 22:26 alongside Mike Reilly, drawn back into the backline six-pack because of the injury suffered by Jakub Zboril early in the second period of Thursday’s 2-0 win at Nashville. Reilly led with 22:39, filling McAvoy’s point spot on the No. 1 power-play unit.
One-quarter of the way into the season, the Bruins found themselves in a concerning state of flux, especially when having to face the powerful Lightning:
▪ Coach Bruce Cassidy remained out of the mix, still in COVID protocol, his return date unknown.
▪ Zboril likely will be sidelined for some time, the club yet to reveal the nature of the injury he sustained to his right leg when hammered into the boards by Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot. Asked if he thought Zboril would be able to accompany the club on its upcoming three-game Canada trip, Sacco said, “I don’t know the answer to that.”
It was difficult to tell, even on video replay, whether Zboril hurt his knee or ankle. He did not appear to show pain until he was down on the ice, having slipped down the wall after impact. Requiring more time for a diagnosis often can be an indication that swelling prevents medical staff from making a full evaluation of an injury.
▪ Brad Marchand, one of the game’s premier left wingers, was out again, serving the final chapter of a three-game suspension for a slew foot he delivered last weekend vs. the Canucks.
▪ Feisty winger Anton Blidh also remained out of action, recovering from an injury to his right shoulder.
Sticking with Jeremy Swayman
As widely anticipated, Jeremy Swayman was back in net for the Bruins, the rookie stopping 22 of 25 shots off his 42-save shutout in Nashville. His quick encore opened up the possibility that he also would make two of three starts on the upcoming trip. The coaching staff has been eager to see one of the goaltenders, be it Linus Ullmark or Swayman, take the job and run with it.
Despite giving up a soft one that provided the Bolts with the 1-0 lead on Saturday, Swayman is the likely starter Wednesday night in Vancouver, and would be expected to get the closeout game on the road in Calgary.
Swayman has lost three straight (0-2-1) on home ice. He is 7-4-1 on the season with a 2.26 goals against average and .918 save percentage.
Marchand will be on the trip and return for Wednesday night’s matchup in Vancouver, a city that always extends him the warmest of welcomes. The L’il Ball o’Hate likely will plug directly back into his spot with fellow top-liners Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. However, one option, be it for Cassidy or Sacco, would be for Taylor Hall to remain on the top trio and Marchand to fly with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith … Steen, who plays center and right wing, was the top scorer (12 games, 6-7—13) with the WannaBs. Ahcan, 2-8—10, has been their top point producer from the back end … The WannaBs saw their last three games postponed because of a COVID outbreak. Ahcan and Steen were made available for the game vs. Tampa Bay, said Sacco, because they repeatedly tested negative … Jake DeBrusk, who scored a goal in Nashville, remained on the No. 4 line with Tomas Nosek and third-period goal scorer Curtis Lazar, with general manager Don Sweeney yet to fulfill the left winger’s request to be traded. Per the club’s public relations staff, DeBrusk again rejected a media request to be interviewed. He has not spoken publicly since his get-me-outta-here request was made public at the start of the week … Prior to the win in Nashville, the Bruins had gone a season-high three games in a row without holding a lead at the 40-minute mark. They also went three straight without a lead at the second intermission in games Oct. 27, 28, and 30 … The Bruins failed to hold a lead in four of their first 20 games, including shutouts by Carolina and Calgary. They denied the opposition any lead time in seven of the 20 games, with a 28-10 goal differential.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.