Danton Heinen gets his shot on Bruins’ top line

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Danton Heinen has 11 goals and 22 assists.

By Globe Staff 

Danton Heinen was movin’ up Tuesday night, ready to be parked at left wing on the Bruins’ No. 1 line with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak when the hottest team in the NHL (14-0-4 in their previous 18 games) took on the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden.

“I don’t think it changes your thinking at all,” said Heinen, moving to a new trio after enjoying great success of late on a line with Riley Nash and David Backes.


“I think I have to try to just play my game, play on instincts, make the plays that are in front of me.’’

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Heinen did not have a productive night, and was relieved at left wing for a shift or two by Frank Vatrano in the 3-1 loss. Heinen landed three shots during his 18:17 of ice time, but was not often in the thick of the action.

The match vs. the Ducks was Boston’s first after the All-Star break, which found Heinen ranked tied for fourth in rookie scoring (33 points).

“Playing with those guys, finding them all the time and trying to force plays might not be the right play,” said Heinen, noting his mind-set when playing with Bergeron and Pastrnak, who normally have Brad Marchand (suspended) on their left side. “Don’t overthink it, just go out and play on instincts.”

With Marchand sidelined last Thursday night, serving the first game of his five-game suspension for his elbow to the head of Marcus Johansson, Anders Bjork began at left wing on the Bergeron-Pastrnak line.


But as the game wore on, Heinen flipped into that spot.

On Tuesday night against the Ducks, Bjork was at Heinen’s former spot on the Nash-Backes line — then he left the game with an upper-body injury.

“I thought [Henin] was good,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, reviewing his brief tour in Ottawa on the No. 1 line. “He contributed on the power play and he might have been there anyway, no matter what line he was on.

“Danton’s fit in well. Started on the bottom, kind of worked his way up, found his place on the third line, and now moved up there, and it’s a good fit for him.”

Khudobin in goal

Anton Khudobin, without a start since Jan. 18 (a win over the Islanders), got the start vs. the Ducks, his last club before returning to the Bruins as a free agent in the summer of 2016.

Khudobin (10-3-4) has his most wins since posting 19 with Carolina in 2013-14, marking a dramatic turnaround from last season with the Bruins, who placed him on waivers around midseason.


Khudobin was assigned to Providence after clearing waivers, only to return and provide some vital puck-stopping over the final weeks of the season, helping lift the Bruins into the playoffs.

“At the end of the day, I think it has to be some level of wakeup call when you are down [in the AHL], no matter who you are,” said Cassidy. “You go through waivers, that means 30 teams are passing on you. To me, that’s the wakeup call.

“You have to get back to work, and eventually he took it to heart. He finished well for us.”

Cassidy underscored that Khudobin’s conditioning was not up to par prior to last season, something the coach said the goalie addressed over the summer.

“At the end of the day,” said Cassidy, “he’s been great since Day 1.”

Tuukka Rask will make Thursday night’s start at TD Garden vs. the Blues. Rask, now 19-8-4 with a 2.16 goals against average and .922 save percentage, has gone more than two months since his last regulation loss Nov. 26.

Since then, Rask has gone 16-0-2, collecting 94.4 percent of a possible 36 points in those starts.

No pressing needs

The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away (Feb. 26), but the Bruins aren’t among the clubs likely to be active in the market.

“Well, we can always get better,” said Cassidy. “That’s up to [GM Don Sweeney] to decide what’s available, what’s not. I think there’s always areas of improvement.

“I am happy with our club. I love the guys’ togetherness in the room. I like that they pull for one another. We’ve won a lot of hockey games where we’ve had different guys in and out of the lineup.”

The upcoming schedule, with St. Louis, Toronto, Detroit (road game), and the Rangers (road game) on the horizon, could provide stiff competition and possibly a litmus for what roster needs might exist.

“The degree of difficulty — and I haven’t studied it too much — will go up,” added Cassidy. “So we can better assess that.

“So I guess the simple long and short: I like our team, love the way they compete, we can always get better.”

Maintenance man

Jaromir Jagr, who cleared waivers Monday and possibly has played his final NHL game, was the marquee name in Washington when Cassidy was named the Capitals head coach in 2002.

Asked about his experience with the Czech superstar, Cassidy joked, “Well, I got fired, so . . .”

After a pause, Cassidy added, “I am not putting it on him, by the way.”

Cassidy, only 37 and an NHL coach for the first time when hired by Washington, described Jagr as a quirky personality, sometimes hard to read.

“For me, as a young guy, he was a lot of maintenance,” said Cassidy, “in terms of communicating, when to, what he needed. I would probably be much better equipped to handle that now, but at the time . . .

“I liked Jags, I liked talking hockey with him. The issue with him was, some days he wanted to talk hockey, but I had a difficult time figuring when was the appropriate time to talk to him about stuff like that.”

Jagr had a passion and knowledge for the game, something Cassidy did not question.

“But some days it was tough,” he said. “That’s just the way it was. And I think most coaches would echo that. He required a certain level of maintenance, but yet he produced for us. So it was good and bad.”

Off target

Despite being badly outshot, 15-5, in the opening 20 minutes, the Bruins finished with a 31-27 shot edge. Overall, they fired 58 shots, compared with only 43 by the Ducks, who successfully nursed their two first-period goals to victory . . . The Bruins uncharacteristically were edged at the faceoff circle, losing 57 percent of their drops. David Krejci won only 5 of 13 . . . Backes again went 0-0—0 prior to getting hurt. The veteran winger, so sharp after returning from abdominal surgery, is now 0-2—2 over the last eight games. With Marchand out, the Bruins need him to step up, which now might not be possible if he suffered a concussion in the hit by the 234-pound Ritchie . . . Cassidy hinted he could opt to play seven defensemen Thursday if both Bjork and Backes are sidelined . . . Torey Krug picked up an assist on the Ryan Spooner goal and landed a game-high six shots on net.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at
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