MONTREAL — Jake DeBrusk scored again Saturday night, his seventh strike over his last nine games, the hottest stretch of the sophomore winger’s career. He carried a line of 10-2—12 after a 3-2 win in Montreal Saturday, when he lined up for a second night on a new trio with Danton Heinen and David Krejci.
“By far our best line,” coach Bruce Cassidy said following Friday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Penguins.
The new line forces Heinen to skate, which has been an issue for the 23-year-old former University of Denver standout. He has NHL-caliber legs and moves well through open ice, but has a tendency to slow down along the wall, in transition, and in the grittier areas of the ice.
“You have to be able to separate,” said Cassidy, noting the need for speed in today’s game. “Danton’s had some trouble. When he’s in open ice, he is crafty and smart . . . whereas Jake and [Anders] Bjork can separate. Danton is starting to get it, but he doesn’t have their foot speed.”
Cassidy wasn’t impressed with Bjork in Wednesday’s loss in Detroit, which led to his seat in the press box on Friday. Bjork also didn’t play Saturday.
Lesson: Speed is key, but it has to be paired with shift-to-shift effort and the ability to hunt pucks.
Rookie Ryan Donato was demoted to Providence a couple of weeks ago because he also has to learn that shift-to-shift tenacity. He has an impressive combination of speed and shot, but the former Harvard star showed he still needs to add the strength and determination factors — often the case for young forwards, particularly those who haven’t faced much resistance in the college game.
Skill alone can get it done at the NCAA level, but more has to be baked into the effort in the NHL.
Moore back at it
John Moore returned to the Boston back line Friday, following a brief injury absence, and was back again vs. the Habs. Moore’s offensive contribution has been minimal (0-2—2 prior to the stop in Montreal), but he has been a versatile and reliable presence back there, particularly during the rash of injuries to the defensive corps.
“I felt good . . . definitely good to be on the right side of it,” he said. “Felt good to be back out there helping my team. It’s not the best feeling when a ton of guys are hurt and you go down, too. You want to get back as soon as you can.”
Cassidy has used Moore up and down the pairings and on both sides, averaging just over 20 minutes per night. He played 23:31 on Saturday.
“Beggers can’t be choosers,” said Moore, asked what is his most comfortable fit in the order. “You really can’t go wrong. Whether it’s [Jeremy] Lauzon, [Connor] Clifton, or even [Steve] Kampfer . . . the list goes on, [Jakub] Zboril when he was in . . . it speaks to the organizational depth. Every night, no matter who you’re playing with you can really rely on that guy.”
A left-hand shot, Moore has adapted well to playing his off side, switched to the right to help cover for the many wounded.
“I liken it to jumping in your car and trying to drive with your left foot,” said Moore, who played again on the right side, pairing with Torey Krug. “It takes a little while to get used to it, but once you get used to it, you are comfortable there.”
Finally, a home game
Lauzon, proud son of Val-d’Or, Quebec, nearly a six-hour drive northwest of Montreal, finally played his first game in the Bell Centre. He made the trip here a few times in his youth, the Habs his favorite team. Finnish forward Saku Koivu and Russian defenseman Andrei Markov were his childhood favorites.
Lauzon’s parents are both doctors and were at a conference in Australia over the weekend, unable to see their 20-year-old son play in the home rink.
Markov, by the way, will turn 40 next month and is still playing, now in his second season with the KHL’s Kazan Ak-Bars. One of his defensive teammates: Bruins short-timer Paul Postma, who is their top-scoring defenseman this season.
Lauzon paired with Clifton on the third pairing and finished with 12:01 in ice time.
Tuukka Rask was back on the job in the Boston net, his third start since taking a critical weekend off earlier this month to “make things right” at home.
The break appeared to get Rask back on his right footing in his first two starts, which turned out to be OT losses in Dallas (1-0) and Detroit (3-2). He turned back 60 of 64 shots (.938) with a 1.97 GAA. Against the Canadiens Saturday, he made 31 saves on 33 shots.
Meanwhile, partner Jaroslav Halak again was sensational in Friday’s win at TD Garden. He awoke Saturday morning with a 1.99 GAA and a .939 save percentage, ranking him second only to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (1.66, .944) for goaltenders who had played in 12 or more games.
Weber still absent
The Canadiens remained without franchise defenseman Shea Weber, who exited the lineup last season after 26 games and now has been hors de combat for Les Glorieux’s last 80 games.
The 33-year-old former Predator, swapped here in the controversial P.K. Subban trade, is recovering from foot and knee surgeries. Like Zdeno Chara, he has one of the league’s hardest shots, and he is an even greater missing piece (501 points in 867 career games) for the Habs because, unlike Big Z, Weber logs essential minutes on the power play.
Provided there are no glitches in his current recovery/workout routine, Weber likely will suit up Tuesday against the Hurricanes. Prior to taking the ice Saturday night for their 24th game this season, the Habs had but six goals from the nine blue liners coach Claude Julien had employed. Prior to his exit last season, Weber alone scored six times in 26 games.
Filling in on top line
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, pressed into heavier duty for what will be a prolonged absence of Patrice Bergeron, again lined up as the pivot on the No. 1 line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. JFK lost 15 of his 20 faceoffs Friday night against the Penguins, particularly glaring because Bergeron often wins upward of 60 percent of his drops. JFK lost 5 of 13 faceoffs vs. Montreal. Marchand landed seven shots on net Friday, while Pastrnak fired blanks . . . David Backes began Saturday still in search of his first goal. He appeared to have it Friday with a backhanded shovel with 17:25 gone in the second, only to have the NHL Situation Room disallow it on the grounds that no video replays showed the puck cross the goal line. Finally in career game No. 876 against Montreal, he scored goal No. 238 . . . Referee Eric Furlatt had to skip out for nearly four minutes in the first period after sustaining a facial cut in a collision with Chris Wagner . . . The Bruins are scheduled to practice Sunday afternoon in Toronto, where they’ll take on the Maple Leafs on Monday night. Cassidy remains hopeful that Brandon Carlo, sidelined by injury the last two weeks, will be able to return to the Boston backline.