Jake DeBrusk and Derek Forbort were back in the Bruins lineup for Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Flames at TD Garden, but rookie Matt Poitras remained out of the mix, still dealing with what is believed to be a shoulder injury.
“He had a follow-up doctor’s appointment — just part of his steps, right?” said coach Jim Montgomery, noting why Poitras did not skate in the late-morning workout in Brighton. “He’s not an option.”
With the Flames in town for the first of seven consecutive Bruins games on Causeway Street, DeBrusk returned to his right wing spot on the No. 1 line with Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle. Forbort was paired on defense with Kevin Shattenkirk.
DeBrusk and Forbort had quiet nights, like the rest of their teammates. DeBrusk landed two shots on net in 16:04 and was -1. Forbort logged 16:21 and was even.
There is no telling how soon Poitras will return to action. He skated in Monday’s workout in Brighton, after which Montgomery said the 19-year-old was progressing.
It was a surprise not to see him out there again Tuesday morning.
Poitras’s first-year trajectory has largely hit a plateau the last couple of months, starting in the weeks before he was assigned to Team Canada for the World Junior Championship in Sweden at the end of December.
Some 10 days before departing for the WJC, Poitras took a heavy hit from Rangers defenseman Erik Gustafsson, causing an upper-body stinger, but he appeared to shake it off.
Post-WJC, Poitras picked up a pair of assists on Jan. 6 in a 7-3 thumping of the Lightning, only to be sidelined three days later when he took a heavy hit from Coyotes backliner Sean Durzi. The brunt of that hit appeared to be to his right shoulder. In his three games since that Jan. 9 injury, Poitras went 0-0–0 with combined ice time of 29:03.
“I think it’s just part of his progression, to keep growing, right?” said Montgomery, when asked if he viewed the rest of the regular season as a reset for the center. “That’s the way we view it.”
In Monday’s workout, Poitras worked on a fourth line that included Danton Heinen, Oskar Steen, and fellow pivot Jesper Boqvist. Once he’s able to rejoin the action, according to Montgomery, he won’t necessarily begin on a fourth line.
“We believe he’s a huge part of what we are going to do,” said Montgomery. “His competitiveness and his hockey sense are just two traits that jump out at you. That’s what makes him such an exciting hockey player for us.”
That profile fits someone who plays higher in the order.
“Using him more in offensive situations where he can help us,” said Montgomery, “like he did early on.”
Penalty kill or be killed
Tied for the top spot in the league’s overall standings, the Bruins entered the final two-plus months of the regular season with few complaints. One area that has slipped slightly of late has been the penalty kill, a category the Bruins led for much of the first half.
Going into Tuesday night, they ranked No. 8 with a success rate of 82.8 percent. The Kings ranked No. 1 at 87.3 percent.
The Kings, of course, have plummeted in the West the last 4-5 weeks and fired coach Todd McLellan over the All-Star break. They have lost seven of their last 10 (3-5-2) and are barely holding on to a wild-card berth.
One way for his charges to improve the PK, noted Montgomery, is to take fewer penalties.
In five games prior to the visit by the Flames, the Bruins allowed the opposition 18 power plays, and yielded a half-dozen goals. Meanwhile, the Bruins went on the advantage 14 times and scored only twice.
The numbers didn’t improve against the Flames. The Bruins killed just 2 of 4 Flames power plays and were 1 for 4 with the advantage.
“There’s little things we’ve been doing and kind of gotten away from,” said Coyle, one of the club’s PK specialists. “A big one is hesitation sometimes can kill you. We’re playing against some pretty good power plays. They’re going to score. It’s going to happen. We’ve got to work together. If one guy is hesitating, then the other guy is hesitating, and then we’re kind of in limbo there.”
Swayman, then Ullmark
All-Star Jeremy Swayman was in net for the return game and allowed four goals while making 25 saves. Linus Ullmark is expected to draw back in when the Canucks, co-tenants with the Bruins in the overall standings penthouse, come to the Garden Thursday. Asked if he intended to toggle between his two No. 1 tenders the rest of the way, Montgomery said, “Right now, yeah, yeah, that’s the plan.” . . . Forbort’s return meant he paired on the No. 1 penalty kill with Brandon Carlo, adding to Montgomery’s confidence the club’s overall PK numbers will improve with those two back there. “I’m not worried about our penalty kill at all,” said Montgomery . . . The Bruins had hoped to pick up where they left off, which was a 12-2-3 record over 17 games post-Christmas. David Pastrnak scored 13 goals in those 17 games and is No. 1 in team scoring at 33-40–73 after picking up an assist on Pavel Zacha’s goal. Pastrnak’s 94 goals dating to the start of last season lead the Original 32 field. The only scorer close to the Bruins’ other All-Star over that stretch: Edmonton’s Connor McDavid with 84.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.