jessica rinaldi/globe staff
NEW YORK — Frank Vatrano wants in.
The pride of East Longmeadow was a healthy scratch Tuesday for the fifth straight game. He has worn a suit and tie for 10 of the last 11 games.
Yet the 23-year-old also understands that with the team healthy and barreling toward the playoffs on an 8-1-2 dash during this 11-game stretch, players who are out of the lineup do not often find themselves back in uniform.
“Obviously frustrating when you’re not in the lineup,” said Vatrano after a lengthy skate at the Barclays Center alongside fellow healthy scratches Anders Bjork, Adam McQuaid, and Paul Postma. “But when you’re not playing, you’ve just got to be the best teammate possible.
“It’s obviously been a little while since I’ve played a game. But you’ve got to be a good teammate at the same time, even though you want to be in the lineup just as bad as the guy next to you.
“The thing for me is to keep working hard, making sure I’m staying game-ready, doing extra reps after practice and stuff like that. Make sure I’m ready when my name’s called. Because we’ve had some injuries this year. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again, but guys can go down quickly in this sport.”
Vatrano has two goals and zero assists in 20 games while averaging 9:56 of ice time per appearance. Since starting the season on the fourth line with Matt Beleskey and Sean Kuraly, he has had teammates scramble over him on the depth chart.
On the left side, Vatrano is behind Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and Tim Schaller. He has filled in at right wing, but David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner, David Backes, and Noel Acciari are all better options.
For now, Vatrano is one of two spare forwards alongside Bjork. The rookie, however, is eligible to report to Providence without clearing waivers if the Bruins feel he needs to play, while Vatrano requires waivers.
Given his age, shoot-first approach, and price ($792,500), another team would consider Vatrano an inexpensive and efficient claim unlike his good friend Beleskey, who advanced through waivers without a sniff.
The Oilers, for example, could use left-side help. General manager Peter Chiarelli was entering the final weeks of his Black-and-Gold stewardship when the Bruins signed Vatrano on March 15, 2015.
Vatrano also would draw interest on the trade market. But he is not to the point where he’d want off his hometown roster in search of playing time.
“I like it here a lot,” Vatrano said. “It’s tough when you’re not in the lineup. But it’s a place where I feel comfortable. I’ve been here for a long time. This is the place where I want to succeed and play in the NHL. Those decisions are kind of out of my control. It can happen to a player. But for me, I’m just trying to stay positive and not worry about those things. Just try to play hockey every single day.”
Pastrnak is in an unusual spot. He is the Bruins’ No. 1 right wing. He is riding on a line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, the NHL’s best three-zone pairing. Marchand and Bergeron excel at digging pucks loose and getting them onto the blade of their talented shooter.
Yet Pastrnak has now gone 10 straight games without a goal following Tuesday’s five fruitless shots in a 5-1 win over the Islanders. None of his last 25 shots has hit the back of the net. Pastrnak’s absence of offensive production is not alarming his boss. In fact, Bruce Cassidy praised Pastrnak for passing to Marchand in the second period, leading to the left wing’s goal.
“Great play,” said the Bruins coach. “He has that ability to freeze guys. That pass, he makes across with the toe-draggish move, it looks like he’s going to shoot. He had some good looks. He had some chances tonight. I was very pleased he made that play. Right time to make it. It was a big goal for us.”
Before the season, Cassidy pegged Pastrnak as his No. 2 right wing alongside DeBrusk and David Krejci. Even amid Pastrnak’s goal-scoring drought, Cassidy has declined to break up his first line.
The threesome continues to generate chances. They control the puck more than they chase it. Not until Tuesday did an opponent score a five-on-five goal against Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak. At the other end, the trio has scored 12 five-on-five goals.
McQuaid is still on injured reserve, even if he is considered healthy enough to play. The veteran will most likely have to wait for one of his fellow defensemen to get hurt before he returns to the lineup.
It has been difficult for Cassidy to keep McQuaid on the sideline. McQuaid was in his second year in Providence when Cassidy became an assistant to Rob Murray.
“I’ve had him a long time,” Cassidy said. “We’ve talked about why we want the right time for him. But it’s a little tougher because our lineup is going well. The pairs seem to be meshing.
“But that’s the competition we talk about. When Adam gets in there, you’re going to see, I’d assume, hopefully an extra push of, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be the guy that’s going out.’ ”
The Patriots this past week successfully galvanized their rabid, loyal legion by playing the underdog card.Continue reading »
Many of the game’s front offices are relying on analytics at the expense of scouts.Continue reading »
By the numbers, Jackson has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL this season.Continue reading »
The goalie was shaken up after New York’s Filip Chytil went airborne before slamming into him on a first-period goal.Continue reading »
Tom Brady and Drew Brees will be matched up against Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff in classic showdowns.Continue reading »
Tabbed a “Clipper for life” when he signed a maximum contract in 2017, Griffin was dealt to Detroit last year.Continue reading »
Sale, who was at Foxwoods for the team’s Winter Weekend event, joked that he’s watched the final inning of the World Series “a couple hundred thousand times.”Continue reading »
Tom Brady was selected in the late rounds of the 1995 major league draft as a lefthanded-hitting catcher.Continue reading »
Mahomes is a supernova with a world of possibilities ahead of him.Continue reading »