It has been a long time since David Pastrnak has played for the Bruins, with his last game coming Oct. 31.
It now will be a bit longer.
General manager Don Sweeney announced Saturday the Bruins will release the 19-year-old Pastrnak for the World Junior Championships in Finland after the NHL’s roster freeze is over on Monday, provided the team doesn’t suffer any injuries in the interim “that would dictate otherwise,” as Sweeney said.
“David’s played two games since being out for seven weeks,” Sweeney said of the games Pastrnak has missed after suffering a foot fracture on a blocked shot Oct. 27.
“Obviously the injury took longer. It was in his best interests to make sure he was fully healthy. He is fully healthy and now we need to get him back to where he can impact our lineup.”
Pastrnak played in last season’s World Junior Championships — scoring one goal with six assists for the Czech Republic — then joined the Bruins and had 10 goals and 16 assists in 41 games. The Bruins hope the tournament will spur him on to such heights again.
Pastrnak has two goals and two assists in the 10 games he has played in Boston this season.
“If indeed he does join the team on the 28th over in Finland, we think that based on last year, his experience there and rolling out of the tournament with the confidence that he had, that he’ll come back to the full level that he had gotten to last year in impacting our lineup,” Sweeney said.
The Bruins hope Pastrnak would then return after the stint at the World Juniors. As Sweeney said, “I think this will give him a real shot in the arm from a confidence standpoint.”
The Bruins cannot keep Pastrnak in the AHL during the World Junior Championships. As Sweeney confirmed, as long as Pastrnak is not on an NHL lineup, he needs to be made available to play in the tournament in Finland.
“I think at this point in time, David was open to anything and everything to get him back up to the level that he wants to be at,” Sweeney said when asked if Pastrnak expressed an interest in the WJC. “And again, he came out of the tournament last year with a real high level of confidence as to what he had done there and we expect him to return to that same level when he does come back.”
Krug exits early
The Bruins announced in the second period that defenseman Torey Krug would not return to the game. He had not been on the ice since the 12:04 mark of the first period and had played just five shifts in the first.
Trying to get feel back
It only had been three days since the Bruins last played — a defeat to St. Louis on Tuesday — but even in that time, the players can tell a difference. It’s in their hands, mainly, a loss of the touch so crucial to their craft. But fortunately for them, they’re not the only ones. The Sabres hadn’t played for six days, since they lost in overtime to the Blackhawks last Saturday.
“Your hands feel kind of out of synch a little bit, just your motor skill is kind of shut off a little bit after three days,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said prior to Saturday night’s game at TD Garden. “It does feel like you haven’t used them in a while and you just have to try to get it going right away.”
Even after just three days.
“If you do it every day, I mean, if you play piano, you’re a musician or something, when you use your hands every day and suddenly you don’t use them for a couple days, it just feels like you haven’t used them in a while,” Seidenberg said. “It sounds maybe awkward, but that’s how it feels.”
The NHL was shut down for the last three days for the traditional Christmas break. There were no games, no practices, no working out of kinks or getting the feel back. Instead, there were trips home to see family or holidays close by.
Making it a bit more complicated for the Bruins was the fact that they were returning to two straight games. They were scheduled to head to Ottawa after Saturday’s game for a 5 p.m. Sunday start against the Senators.
“You try to keep it simple at the beginning, try to find your way, find your hands, get comfortable,” Seidenberg said. “Basically with every game, you want to start simple and then when you’re comfortable, you get to take the next step. That’s really important after having a few days off, relaxing and getting away from the game.
“It’s just about being mentally sharp and trying to keep the mistakes as little as possible.”
Ultimately, they were happy to have the rest, even if it meant an adjustment.
“We’ve got to focus more on our legs and our hands, kind of getting back to it,” Frank Vatrano said. “It was only a couple days off, but sometimes you take a couple days off, you can get away from your game, so I think really focusing on just playing a full 60 minutes like we always do, but trying to get our legs underneath us earlier.”
And fortunately, as Seidenberg said, “It comes back quick.”
Spooner front, center
Max Talbot serving the second game of his two-game suspension Saturday, Ryan Spooner was again the only lefthanded center on the roster to take faceoffs. Spooner has significantly improved this season at the dot, after starting in the 30 percent range this season.
He’s now at 41.3 percent (96 for 232), having taken the fourth-most faceoffs on the team behind Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Joonas Kemppainen.
“If there’s a faceoff in our own end at the end of the game, I’m probably not going to be the one that gets sent out there, but for the rest of the game I’ve been trying to work on them,” Spooner said.
“At the beginning of the year I was down to like 34 percent or something like that and I’ve climbed my way up. They’ve gotten a lot better, but I want to try to get up to like 48 or 49, or even 50.
“It’s something that I’ve worked on. It’s been a process for me, and I feel like I am getting better at them. I’m going to try to keep it up.”
Friend in high places
Jack Eichel, who played on the Junior Bruins with Frank Vatrano, had some nice words about his former teammate, an appreciation for a player who already has scored five goals in 19 games this season. “It’s great to see Frankie doing so well,” Eichel said. “He’s had a tough road to get here, but I saw Frankie when he was 16 and he was a special player. I’m not surprised at all up here he’s doing so well.”
Asked who has the better shot, Eichel said, “I don’t know many guys that have a better shot than Frankie.”
The two faced off as members of UMass (Vatrano) and BU (Eichel) last season.