Struggling to regain a foothold in the lineup, Bruins rookie right winger Anders Bjork was assigned Wednesday to AHL Providence, where he can work at regaining the speed and confidence that earned him a roster spot with the varsity in September.
Bjork, 21, did not play in Boston’s two most recent games, vs. Ottawa and the Islanders, held out (coach’s decision) after contributing only two assists in the previous six games.
The former Notre Dame standout, who turned pro after his junior season with the Irish last spring, was set back on Nov. 11 when he was leveled by a stiff check from Toronto winger Matt Martin. Believed to have suffered a concussion, and possibly a neck injury, he did not show his familiar jump and confidence in the weeks following the hit.
Bjork returned to the lineup three weeks later, a Dec. 2 win at Philadelphia, but picked up only one goal over six games prior to being assigned to the press box Dec. 16 vs. the Rangers for the first time in his career.
In 28 games, Bjork, perhaps the fastest skater on the roster, contributed a line of 4-8—12.
Currently enjoying their best streak in years — 16-3-2 — the Bruins recently moved veteran center Ryan Spooner into Bjork’s right wing spot on a line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. With coach Bruce Cassidy showing increased confidence in his lines of late, including the contributions of rookies Danton Heinen and DeBrusk, it looked as though it would become more difficult for Bjork to find the kind of playing time required to grow his game.
Meanwhile, the Bruins have another spare forward in Frank Vatrano, but the former UMass winger cannot be assigned to the AHL without being placed on waivers. He has played in only one of the club’s last 11 games, but management is clearly convinced they would lose the 23-year-old to another club if they attempted to assign him to Providence.
Bjork will be expected to suit up for Providence’s three games this weekend: home vs. Hartford Friday, at Springfield Saturday, and back in Providence vs. Syracuse Sunday.
Demoted to Providence three weeks ago, veteran winger Matt Beleskey has scored two goals in six games.
McQuaid is still on hold
Much like his highly successful fourth line, Cassidy is keeping it simple: Tuukka Rask will be back in net Thursday night when the Panthers visit the Garden, and the coach plans to use the same 18 skaters who helped the Black and Gold roll up their 5-1 win over the Islanders Tuesday.
“I don’t think there will be any surprises, hopefully, but that’s the plan,” said Cassidy.
Veteran defenseman Adam McQuaid remains eager to get back in the lineup now that his mid-October leg fracture has healed. But with the lineup so hot, Cassidy has been unwilling to make any roster changes.
A right shot, McQuaid logically would sub in for either Brandon Carlo or Kevan Miller. When Carlo misplayed a puck and then fell, leading to New York’s only goal Tuesday night, it looked as though McQuaid might get a chance to suit up now, but Cassidy was impressed with how Carlo recovered.
“The only thing I said to Brandon was, ‘You are better when you’re skating,’ ” said Cassidy. “Some nights, if you are standing still making plays, there are guys in this league that will do that.
“I think he’s a better player when he’s moving. He’s a big body. He can cover ice, so when he’s moving, plays can open up for him better.”
Recovering quickly from errors is a key to success for younger players, noted Cassidy, who used rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy as an example.
“One of Charlie’s biggest strengths is that he can park things in a hurry,” said Cassidy. “He’ll just get out there and play and off he goes.
“Brandon went through a little bit of that. We’d like him to recover quicker, and last night I thought he did a good job with it. The team around him helped with that, so good for him.
“We’ve got a strong D corps, so he probably knows in the back of his head, ‘Hey, I can’t let this one get to me, I’ve got to keep going.’
“That’s the competition we’ve created, and I think he did a real good job.”
Making it happen
The fourth line, with Sean Kuraly centering Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari, has rolled up a 4-4—8 line over the last three games, with Acciari picking up one goal in each of those games. No mystery as to what makes the line click: high energy, forcing the opposition deep in its own zone, creating offensive chances with size and pressure. “They’re all OK with it,” said Cassidy, noting how some players struggle when cast in simple, aggressive roles. “They’re just OK with it. They get it. And they’ve been rewarded.” . . . The win in Brooklyn improved the Bruins to 16-3-2 (.810) in their last 21 games and left them in second place in the Atlantic Division, 2 points ahead of the Maple Leafs. Rask improved to 11-0-1 (.958) in his last 12 starts. Anton Khudobin probably will start Saturday vs. the Hurricanes, his former club, leaving Rask with the start Sunday night in Pittsburgh . . . The Bruins again didn’t trail Tuesday night, the eighth game in a row they haven’t had to chase a lead. Their time working with the advantage over the last eight games: 266:32.