New Bruin Charlie Coyle likely headed for No. 3 center duty
ST. LOUIS — Charlie Coyle stepped on the ice here Friday at 4:39 p.m. and quickly was assigned to his new post, the center spot on the No. 3 line.
For the foreseeable future — anywhere from 20 minutes or possibly through the end of the playoffs — the newest Bruin will stay there.
“He is going to play center,” declared coach Bruce Cassidy, his Bruins 4-0-0 on a road trip set to wrap up here Saturday afternoon (4 p.m) vs. the Blues. “We’d like to keep him there, if possible, as much as we can — so he has some time to get going with our group.”
Coyle, 6 foot 3 inches and a trim 220 pounds, was acquired Wednesday in a swap that sent prospect Ryan Donato to Minnesota. Coyle will begin his first game in a Spoked-B with David Backes on his right wing. On the left side, Cassidy will decide in the morning if it will be Joakim Nordstrom or Peter Cehlarik, who was recalled Thursday from AHL Providence.
“Having said that,” Cassidy noted, “[Coyle] can certainly play the right side if we have to make that move — that probably would be in-game, if, say, you wanted two faceoff guys out there late in the game. Maybe we throw him out there with [David Krejci] to see if there is chemistry there at some point.”
Coyle, who chose No. 13 (last sported by Glen Metropolit), flew directly from Minnesota to Las Vegas and spent a good portion of Thursday making acquaintances with his new teammates. He then flew here on the club charter, and by midafternoon, less than 48 hours after the deal, was going through the paces.
“I was itching to get out there and get a good skate in,” he said. “It’s been really good to get to know everyone a little bit . . . try to start to create some chemistry. All the guys have been really welcoming, just a good group to be part of.”
With Coyle slated for the center spot, he likely won’t be compelled to shoot as much — a pivot’s duty typically is to pass rather than shoot.
Over the course of his NHL career with the Wild, Coyle has been considered a reluctant shooter. Upon being traded, he ranked No. 6 on the Wild this year with 113 shots over 60 games, just under two strikes per contest.
“Yeah, I’ve been told I should shoot more since I was 10 years old,” said Coyle with a chuckle. “It’s really nothing new. I think that’s always been my mentality, but I think I have worked on my shot enough to use it more often, create scoring chances off rebounds and things like that.”
Perhaps he can take some inspiration from No. 1 Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who is third on the club with 148 shots in his 45 games this season. Perennially, Bergeron is among the league’s most active shooters from the center spot.
“This is my seventh season playing in the league, and you’re still learning,” noted Coyle.
“You are still finding ways to be a better player and I think shooting the puck more is something I can do — and it’s obviously an easy fix to put the puck on net a little more. I think I can do that. Kind of put that in my game and I think it will benefit myself, my teammates, and the team as well.”
Cassidy’s general feeling, with all centers, is that they should shoot if they feel they’re in the best spot to land the shot.
“But again, it’s kind of a fresh start for him,” said Cassidy, chuckling, “and I don’t want to get on him already. It will take a little time, let him get acclimated, and then we’ll start barking at him.”
■ Ex-Bruins stopper Anton Khudodbin made 43 stops Thursday night, backing the Stars to a 5-2 win and ending the Blues’ franchise-record winning streak at 11 games. Khudobin, a fan favorite in Boston as Tuukka Rask’s backup, is 11-13-3 this season with the Stars.
The Blues, back in the thick of the Western playoff pack, hadn’t lost since Jan. 21 at Los Angeles.
The Bruins enter with a seven-game winning streak, including five games without the services of top goal scorer David Pastrnak.
■ Sophomore Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk (19 goals) has a five-game goal-scoring streak, the club’s longest in Cassidy’s tenure behind the bench.
Brad Marchand went seven straight games with at least one goal, Feb. 2-14, 2016.
“I think it’s just a matter of me being opportunistic,” said DeBrusk, asked about his hot streak, “and getting some great passes from my teammates. And executing. That’s one of the things you always talk about throughout the year. You understand you’re going to get your looks — you just have to make sure you make the most of ’em.”
■ In the five games with Pastrnak sidelined (thumb surgery), the Bruins have scored 22 goals, spread out across 12 goal scorers. Leading the way: DeBrusk (5), Marchand (3), Charlie McAvoy (2), Krejci (2), Chris Wagner (2).
Along with McAvoy, the backline also saw goals from Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.
■ The Bruins are expected to hand the cage over again to Rask, now 12-0-2 over his last 15 appearances.
Rask has not registered a regulation “L” since his 5-3 loss in Carolina on Dec. 23. Rask is now 20-8-4. Among goalies to have played 30 games or more, he ranks No. 7 in both goals-against average (2.45) and save percentage (.918).
■ Coyle on why he chose No. 13, which was his pick among the numbers the club had available: “I kind of narrowed it down. I don’t know, I just kind of went with it — I wasn’t sure what to do, really. I’ve never been 13 before, and figured I’d go with that.” . . . Cassidy will keep his other three lines the same: Marchand-Bergeron-Danton Heinen; DeBrusk-Krejci-Karson Kuhlman; Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari-Wagner. Kuhlman has played three games and impressed Cassidy. “Enough that we are not automatically going to put [Cehlarik] back up there,” explained the coach. “They are two different players. I think he has earned the right to stay in the lineup.” Cassidy likes that the rookie, an ex-Minnesota Duluth standout, is strong on his skates. “And he’s quick and uses his body well,” Cassidy said. “Reminds me a bit of [Marchand], how he gets under people, and he has quickness to absorb part of the hit but not get drilled. So far he’s done a real nice job.”