DETROIT — The Bruins were coming off a 4-0 stinker. The Red Wings had won two in a row and were rolling a balanced lineup.
decided it was a good time to make significant changes to his roster.
Frank Vatrano, formerly the No. 2 left wing, was promoted to first-line right wing alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. David Pastrnak, parked in a 14-game goal-scoring drought, went down to the second line with Tim Schaller and David Krejci.
David Backes, who had played most of the season as Krejci’s right wing, moved back to the middle on the third line between Ryan Spooner and Austin Czarnik. It was the first time the Bruins went with a three-center rotation of Bergeron, Krejci, and Backes this season.
The fourth line had Dominic Moore centering Anton Blidh and Riley Nash.
“If you look at the other side, they had some pretty balanced lines out there,” said the Bruins coach. “We had to try and balance our lines. I don’t think that was an issue tonight. I think the breakdowns were the issue. A lot of guys played well in those positions.”
The line changes worked in the first period. Vatrano scored twice. His second goal chased Jared Coreau (three goals on eight shots) at 8:50. Bergeron scored on the power play while recording two assists. The shuffled first line was dominant throughout the period.
“You try to finish every night,” said Vatrano, who entered the night with three goals. “You don’t know when it’s going to come or not. It’s good those goals go in. But you need more to win. There were a couple more opportunities I wish I could have buried on. We ended up losing the game, so if you bury a few more chances, those bounces are going our way and we win the game.”
The Bruins didn’t have many complaints about the No. 2 line. Krejci assisted on Adam McQuaid’s third-period goal after carrying the puck up the ice, drawing defenders his way, and pulling up to find his defenseman. Pastrnak didn’t score for the 15th straight game. But the right wing landed a game-high six shots on net in 22:16 of ice time, most of any forward. Pastrnak’s blemish was an untimely third-period roughing minor at 17:20 when he dragged down Justin Abdelkader during a post-whistle flareup.
The third line, however, was a mixed bag with Backes playing his natural position.
The center made an excellent play before Vatrano’s power-play goal when he batted a mid-air puck to keep the play going in the offensive zone.
But Backes and Spooner were on the ice for three Detroit goals, including Gustav Nyquist’s tying strike in the third period. In the third, both Blidh and Nash took shifts on Backes’s wings. Czarnik played only 8:30, second-least after Blidh (7:37).
Say it ain’t so, Joe
Wednesday night marked the Bruins’ final game at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings are moving to Little Caesars Arena in 2017-18. The Joe will be razed and the space used for a hotel. “From college, great memories,” said ex-Michigan State Spartan Torey Krug, a native of nearby Livonia. “Lot of great games in this building. My freshman year, we won the [Great Lakes Invitational]. That probably stands out the most. Just being able to watch all the great teams growing up, winning Stanley Cups, getting to go to games. It’s a special building.”
Neither Colin Miller (lower body) nor Kevan Miller (concussion) joined the Bruins on the trip. Of the two, Colin Miller is closer to playing . . . Pastrnak entered the night without a goal in 14 straight games. The right wing has seven assists during the 14-game slump, including three against St. Louis on Jan. 10. “You can’t say, ‘We’re really disappointed in you,’ because we’re not,” Julien said. “He’s producing. He’s still working hard. He’s still competing. Sometimes that’s part of the game. An older, more experienced player would probably deal with it in a better way. He will someday. But he’s got to go through it first.” . . . Jimmy Hayes remained on the ice after the morning skate with goalie Zane McIntyre, indicating he would be a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game.
Beleskey getting close
Matt Beleskey (knee) is close to playing. The left wing participated in Wednesday’s morning skate. He could be cleared for Friday’s home game against Chicago. Beleskey would give the coaches another piece that could help the No. 2 line.
“There’s no doubt that Beleskey – Schaller’s another guy on the left side – might give us some options,” Julien said. “Maybe some other guys will go to other positions where it might benefit them as well. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
No. 2 left wing has been a trouble spot all year. The Bruins targeted Jimmy Vesey, but the Harvard graduate signed with the Rangers over his hometown team. Vatrano, Plan B, required foot surgery before the start of training camp. Spooner and Danton Heinen are other forwards who have rotated through the position. So far, none has stuck.
It’s why, among the other things on Don Sweeney’s wish list (defense and backup goalie being the others), a No. 2 left wing is a desired commodity for the Bruins general manager. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado’s captain, fits the profile. The No. 2 pick from 2011 has long been a favorite of Bruins management. Landeskog has eight goals and seven assists in 32 games while averaging 19:01 of ice time per appearance.
The price for the 24-year-old, however, would be through the roof. The ask would most likely be the standard package of good young player, prospect, and first-round pick. The Bruins are not in a comfortable position to deal futures, regardless of Landeskog’s fit. Brandon Carlo, Colorado’s preferred target, gives the Bruins two more seasons of entry-level cost certainty to balance the raise coming to Pastrnak next year.