David Pastrnak was ready for a promotion. In 17 games for Providence, Pastrnak scored five goals and had 13 assists for a team-best 18 points, which was also good enough to lead all AHL rookies in scoring.
At the same time, the Bruins needed up-front help. They were coming off a 2-0 loss to Montreal Saturday night in which they couldn’t generate many in-tight scoring chances on Carey Price.
So the two factors converged in Pastrnak’s recall from Providence and NHL debut against Pittsburgh Monday night. Pastrnak, wearing No. 88, started his night on the fourth line with Jordan Caron and Alexander Khokhlachev.
“I tried to do my best for the team,” Pastrnak said. “Enjoy the time, enjoy the game.”
He ended up playing on three of the four lines. Late in the game, the 18-year-old took shifts with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and also rode in Simon Gagne’s spot alongside Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell. Pastrnak’s best sequence took place in the third when he dished a backhand pass out front to Marchand.
Pastrnak attempted three shots in 7:53 of ice time in the Bruins’ 3-2 OT loss. He also played 1:21 on the power play.
“We had to look at him, right? Plus I thought he had good legs,” coach Claude Julien said of giving Pastrnak shifts higher in the lineup. “So I put him on a couple lines here. You can see he’s a pretty dynamic player. He had that one shift with Bergy’s line with Marsh and him where they had a real good shift in the O-zone. I liked his game. I know he probably didn’t get a ton of ice time. But when he was out there, I liked what he did.”
Pastrnak’s play was limited because Julien didn’t give the fourth line, which has played together in Providence, much time at all. Caron played only 3:35. Khokhlachev played just 2:53.
Pastrnak was good enough during July’s development camp and the Bruins’ four-team rookie tournament in September that the club considered tabbing him for the varsity to start the regular season. But a shoulder injury during camp limited Pastrnak’s availability.
The Bruins were also wary of rushing Pastrnak because of his size and inexperience with the nuances of North American hockey, especially away from the puck. They assigned him to Providence to start the season to become comfortable and work on his defensive game.
In Providence, Pastrnak had no trouble adjusting to the pace of the AHL on offense. With Caron providing the muscle and Khokhlachev serving as playmaker, Pastrnak used his speed, hockey sense, and creativity to help the line become Providence’s best unit.
“We’re different kinds of styles of players,” Pastrnak said. “We played a long time together. We got used to it. We know where we are on the ice. They helped me a lot down there at the beginning.”
Pastrnak also put on weight. He was listed at 166 pounds to start the season. He said he is over 170 pounds now.
“I feel a lot stronger on the puck, around the boards, and battling,” Pastrnak said. “I think it helped me. I like it. I didn’t lose my skating so much. Maybe I’ll add a bit more.”
The muscle helps Pastrnak hold his own in defensive situations on the walls. This is a critical technique for wingers in the defensive zone. Pastrnak had several shifts Monday night during which he couldn’t chip the puck out of the defensive zone. Wingmen are also expected to be dependable in pressuring the points and sagging down low in the slot. This is a hard task for any young player, especially an 18-year-old with only two months of North American experience.
“We know he makes things happen,” Julien said. “He’s a skilled player. He can score goals. We don’t expect perfection. But you’ve got to be at least a little bit reliable defensively. That’s what he’s been working on over there. He’s gotten better.”
Krejci, Kelly out
Neither David Krejci nor Chris Kelly was cleared to play against the Penguins. Both are out with undisclosed injuries.
Krejci has not played in seven of the last eight games, including the last three straight. Julien reiterated that Krejci is day-to-day and that his ailment will not linger.
“Everything I’m being told, it’s not something we’re going to have to manage all year,” Julien said. “I know that’s a big issue in wondering what’s going on. But it’s something that’s going to be fixed is what I’m being told.”
Chara takes a skate
Zdeno Chara skated on his own Monday morning. Chara missed his 14th game because of the torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He is not close to a return, Julien said. Chara could travel with the team on its four-game West Coast swing next week to skate and train with his teammates . . . The Bruins activated Marchand from injured reserve before the game. Marchand had three shots in 18:48 of ice time. “I felt a little rusty,” Marchand said. “My plays with the puck weren’t great. But I felt better toward the end of the game.” To make room for Marchand, the Bruins assigned Seth Griffith to Providence. Griffith scored five goals and had two assists in 18 games . . . Kevan Miller led all Bruins with 22:44 of ice time.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.