In Game No. 2, Karson Kuhlman rides with Bruins’ No. 2 line
SAN JOSE, Calif. — His game rounding into form on the No. 2 line, Peter Cehlarik suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury and was in street clothes for the Bruins’ 6-5 overtime win Monday night against the Sharks.
Coach Bruce Cassidy believed Cehlarik, who had an assist Friday night in Anaheim and stands 4-2—6 in 13 games on David Krejci’s line, could return to action Wednesday in Las Vegas or Saturday in St. Louis. He was off the ice Monday, but could practice with the team Tuesday in Sin City.
Cassidy considered promoting checking-line wingers Chris Wagner or Sean Kuraly, both of whom have had their moments offensively, and whom the coaching staff feels deserve a chance. Facing a deep-as-the-Pacific team such as the Sharks, Cassidy felt it imprudent to break up a reliable line (those two and center Noel Acciari).
“They’re doing their job,” he said. “They’re playing lots of minutes.”
On the road, the easiest switch for him was to promote Karson Kuhlman, despite the fact the right-shot winger was playing Game No. 2 of his NHL career. Cassidy said that with his pace and attention to the defensive side, he wouldn’t be out of step on a trio with Jake DeBrusk and Krejci.
The switch paid off, as Kuhlman scored his first goal late in the first period, set up by a flip pass by Krejci and a rush to the net by DeBrusk.
“I know what I’m good at, so I’ll stick with those things,” said Kuhlman, who skated 9:47 Saturday in his Los Angeles debut and another 11:49 Monday. “With a guy like that [Krejci] who has such great vision and passing ability, it’s important to get open.”
Kuhlman, who was in Providence last week, knows things change quick. Just ask Danton Heinen, who emerged from two games as a healthy scratch (Feb. 3 and 5) and was promoted to a line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
“It’s a funny game,” said Heinen, who had three goals and three assists in his first four games as a No. 1 right wing. “I’m definitely getting in a groove now.”
The key, he added, is to “play your game and don’t think about who you’re playing with. I made that mistake in the past and it didn’t work out too great.”
Heinen, who has played with every center on the Bruins’ roster (and last year found traction with Riley Nash, now struggling in Columbus), isn’t David Pastrnak. Heinen is not expected to wheel, dish, shoot, and protect the puck at an All-Star level. But with Pastrnak (left thumb surgery) still a week from even an evaluation and the trade market still quiet, Cassidy likes what he sees from the second-year winger.
Two of his goals with the No. 1 unit have come from banging home rebounds. Heinen set a legal pick for Marchand on his faceoff-win goal against the Kings Saturday, pushing big Dustin Brown out of the way. On Monday, he worked a give-and-go on DeBrusk’s second-period goal.
“I think he has the IQ to play with those guys,” Cassidy said. “They play fast, and they hit holes. They move the puck, they one-touch it around. I don’t think that’ll be a problem for Danton. The biggest challenge for him would be the strength on the puck. They hold pucks, they rely on absorbing partial hits and then separating.
“Was he going to be strong enough to do that? At times he is. At times he’s still learning. Just like Pasta was when he was younger, but he’s gotten so much stronger. That’s the area for him that will be the biggest challenge, because they’re a down-low, cycle line. They can certainly score off the rush, but they’re very dangerous when they get moving in the O-zone and get people out of position.”
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Jumbo Joe Thornton (13-21—34 in 51 games) is over his recent knee troubles and keeps racking up milestones at age 39. In the last week, he passed Gordie Howe for ninth in assists (1,051); Teemu Selanne for 15th in points (1,458), and Shane Doan and Johnny Bucyk for 15th in games played (1,543).
He entered Monday 12 assists shy of Steve Yzerman for eighth; 11 points shy of Stan Mikita for 14th, and seven games shy of Alex Delvecchio for 14th.
Thornton added to his totals Monday with a hat trick, his goals coming in each period.
Bergeron was a rookie in 2003-04, when Thornton was in his final full year as captain in Boston. He said Thornton taught him how to carry himself.
“What I’ll remember the most is how nice he was, teaching me and helping me as a young player,” Bergeron said. “His demeanor all the time, the way he always had a smile. You could tell he was having a great time around the guys.”
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Kuraly, a 2011 fifth-round draft pick (133rd overall) of the Sharks, participated in four development camps in the Bay Area. He enjoyed his annual summer week in San Jose, but never got a shot in main camp. “It was tough,” he said. “I was getting closer to kind of realizing I might get a chance here, but it never got here. I think they valued me, all the same.” On June 30, 2015, Boston flipped goaltender Martin Jones (picked up in the deal that sent Milan Lucic to Los Angeles) to San Jose, where he is now a workhorse. In return, the Bruins got two future members of their bottom six: Kuraly (then unsigned) and a 2016 first-round pick, which became Trent Frederic . . . Defenseman Steven Kampfer, back with the Bruins after a three-game conditioning stint with AHL Providence, was a healthy scratch, with John Moore.