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Bruins hope Joakim Nordstrom can add a spark to second line

Joakim Nordstrom (right) battles Detroit’s Filip Hronek during the Bruins’ 8-2 win Saturday.mary schwalm/AP

Until further notice, Joakim Nordstrom is a top-six winger for the Bruins, riding on the left side of the second line with veteran pivot David Krejci and second-year forward Jake DeBrusk.

By the sound of things, Bruce Cassidy isn’t ready to issue a further notice. Slightly less than two weeks into the NHL season, with the Bruins clicking along at 4-1-0, the coach is willing to give the 26-year-old Swedish winger the chance to settle into the job for the long haul.

“He’s had some good looks around the net,” Cassidy said after his squad’s workout Monday morning in Brighton. “He’s found open space in the offensive zone — buried one, been robbed two or three times. So he’s not just one-way defensive insurance for that line. He can contribute at the offensive end.


“Right now he’s playing like a complete player, so we’ll keep him there.”

Nordstrom, 26, signed here July 1 as an unrestricted free agent, a two-year budget-friendly deal guaranteeing him a total $2 million and an open audition to flash the kind of skills that in 2010 had the Blackhawks select him 90th overall in the entry draft. Five years later, he was dished to the Hurricanes in another cash purge Chicago made for cap concerns, this time mainly to unload Kris Versteeg’s heavy contract.

In his first year with Carolina, Nordstrom was cast into a top-six spot, riding with Jordan Staal and Andrej Nestrasil, a trio that combined for 95 points.

“We were together for something like 60, 65, 70 games,” Nordstrom recalled. “Then after the summer, I was put into a fourth line, more defensive role and then stayed there the past two years.”

Which, in part, had Nordstrom looking for a fresh start when his 2017-18 season came to an end in Carolina. A different club, he felt, could offer him the chance to show more of his skill set. When the Bruins came calling, amid losses of Tim Schaller (to Vancouver) and Riley Nash (to Columbus), he was quick to accept the invitation.


“League awareness,” Cassidy said when asked what advantage Nordstrom had over the cast of young prospects the club considered for roles during training camp. “He’s a very responsible player. A lot of it is just having some experience in the league. So we like that with Krejci and DeBrusk. It frees them up a little bit.”

To accommodate Nordstrom’s addition, DeBrusk flipped to right wing during the just-completed 3-0-0 homestand, after spending most of his rookie season on Krejci’s left side. DeBrusk popped in a pair of goals Saturday in an 8-2 thumping of Detroit, and Nordstrom had a couple of Grade A chances.

Boston’s top line, perhaps the best in the league, had Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak knock home 11 of the 18 goals the Bruins scored in their three victories at home. Bergeron on Monday was named the league’s First Star of the week, a week highlighted by his hat trick against Ottawa in last Monday’s home opener.

Come playoff time, as was proved again last spring, Cup-hopeful teams must have reliable second-line offense. With the DeBrusk-Krejci-Rick Nash line sputtering under the heat of a dogged Tampa Bay forecheck, the Bruins were eliminated in five games of Round 2. If Cassidy has found a productive combination in Nordstrom-Krejci-DeBrusk, perhaps the outcome can be different next spring.


“I like that he’s good on pucks,” Cassidy said.

If he proves proficient at putting a few in the net, he could be in for a long ride on that No. 2 line.

All together now

Following a workout in Brighton again Tuesday morning, the Bruins will embark on a four-game road trip, with stops in Calgary (Wednesday), Edmonton (Thursday), Vancouver (Saturday), and Ottawa (next Tuesday).

“This is the original bonding session, I guess,” Cassidy said. “I think every team likes to have a trip early in the year. So that may develop.”

The Bruins had a 10-day junket to China in September that also acted as a group hug, but some of the veterans, such as captain Zdeno Chara and alternate captain Bergeron, were not part of that contingent.

“We had some younger guys in the organization that got to know the older guys,” Cassidy said. “It was probably good for [Jaroslav] Halak and [Chris] Wagner, but as for our whole team now, this’ll be a good one.”

The next long trip in November will be to Colorado, Dallas, Arizona, and Detroit.

Calgary can be a tough first stop, the thin air at the foot of the Canadian Rockies often making for difficult aerobics for visitors.

“I think it’s more where your mind is,” Chara said. “You might feel it ,and you might not, it really depends. But it’s not extreme elevation where you’d be really gasping for air. We all know the first few shifts you might feel it, then you have to move on and just focus on the game.”


Win-win on the wing

The stop in Vancouver will have the Bruins up against old friend Schaller, the left winger last season on the Trench Connection Line with Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari.

Schaller, after a career-high 22 points last season, signed with the Canucks as a free agent, a two-year pact worth a total $3.8 million. Wagner has moved into Schaller’s position, leaving Cassidy with the same confidence in his No. 4 line.

“Absolutely,” Cassidy said. “I liked Tim as a player. He did his job for us, did it well, and he got rewarded. Same with Riley Nash. They did their job.

“Obviously, I like Kuraly and Acciari together. I like Noel on the wing, frees him up a little more. We were thinking Nordstrom or Wagner [on left wing], and both worked out well, so it’s a win-win.”

Cassidy went on to say he wishes both Schaller and Nash well in their careers, “but not against us.”

Wagner, Cassidy said, offers more a more physical presence than Schaller, which was on display against the Oilers Thursday when he put a big hit on Jujhar Khaira, waking up a sleepy Bruins bench that had fallen behind, 1-0.

“Timmy had better offensive numbers,” Cassidy said. “We are hoping Chris will grow his numbers and still add the physical element. As far as the away-from-the-puck responsibility, I think as a staff we are equally as happy with the new players as we were with the guys who left.”


Schaller has yet to pick up a point in three games with the Canucks. Nash, whose deal in Columbus guarantees him $8.25 over three years, has a 0-1—1 line after five games.

Lineup choices

Cassidy hinted that he’ll open on the road with the same lineup that ran up eight goals on the Red Wings, which would mean Danton Heinen again would watch from the sidelines. Goalies Tuukka Rask and Halak will split the two games in Alberta, though Cassidy was not sure who would make the first start. If he were to stick to a straight rotation, the job would fall to Halak (2-0-0, 1.18, .961) . . . Former Boston College Eagle Johnny Gaudreau again leads the Flames in scoring (2-6—8 through five games). Now in his fifth NHL season, Gaudreau has rolled up 296 points, ranking him 12th in league scoring. His 197 assists tie him with San Jose’s Brent Burns at No. 7 on the helper list . . . Since making his pro debut here last Monday, Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk has cobbled together a 2-3—5 line in three games, leaving the former Boston University Terrier fourth in team scoring.

Loss of a friend

Chara and Cassidy both offered condolences on the death of NESN’s John Martin , the longtime cameraman who lost his battle with ALS Sunday. “A well-respected guy here on the Boston media scene,” Cassidy said. Martin, 51, lived in Newton and is survived by wife Adrienne and two young daughters. “A tough day for their family, and the Bruins pass on their condolences.” Martin shot for NESN for nearly 20 years and was diagnosed with ALS two years ago. “Very sad news for us as a team,” added Chara. “John was such a fun man to be around.”

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.