DETROIT — Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy will use this week to finalize his roster, including the two open spots at forward, but he sounds as if he’s made up his mind to keep ex-Harvard standout Ryan Donato on the Black-and-Gold varsity.
“We’ve liked his game,” Cassidy said prior to puck drop of Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Red Wings. “There’s nothing he’s done to make us think that he’s been pushed down [the depth chart]. So that leaves only one spot, right? . . . the fourth line.”
There are a number of young candidates still vying to tie up that last roster spot, but it’s possible Cassidy will opt to fill it with one of the two unsigned veterans, ex-UNH winger Daniel Winnik or Lee Stempniak, still in camp on a tryout basis.
Both Stempniak and Winnink, Cassidy confirmed, will be in uniform Monday night when the Bruins face the Flyers in Philly.
Provided Donato remains aboard, Cassidy could opt to use him as the second line’s right winger, with sophomore Jake DeBrusk on the left side and veteran David Krejci at pivot. Another option would be put Danton Heinen on Krejci’s right and use Donato on the third line, possibly with Sean Kuraly in the middle and David Backes at right wing.
Backes reported to training camp looking noticeably thinner, primarily evident in face, after intentionally cutting some 10 pounds — achieved by a change of diet and training methods.
The veteran center/wing was intent on losing the extra baggage, hoping to increase his speed in a league that moves a half-step quicker every season.
Backes looked faster in the two games in China, said Cassidy, but the coach is reserving judgment if he truly has gained some RPMs.
“I want to see him in [games in North America],’ said Cassidy. “Simply because the bigger ice [in China] is different..angles are tougher, and it’s tougher to get there to finish checks because you have to travel that much farther. I am going to yes, he is quicker, but how much, let’s wait to see on our-sized rink before we get too far along on that.”
Patrice Bergeron, who participated in his first skating drills on Friday, will be back on the ice today in Brighton when Cassidy oversees two workout groups. Back spasms prevented Bergeron from skating for nearly a week. He remains hopeful that he’ll be in full and proper game shape by the night of the Oct. 3 opener in D.C . . . Kuraly and Ryan Fitzgerald, both dealing with minor injuries of late, are expected to be in Sunday’s workouts . . . Defenseman Kevan Miller called in sick on Saturday, so Cassidy was uncertain of his return date. Joakim Nordstrom, Jakub Zboril and Jakub Lauko all are dealing with what are believed to be minor injuries . . . Look for GM Don Sweeney to announce a few roster cuts on Sunday, in part to assign bodies to Providence, the club’s AHL affiliate that begins its training camp Monday.