No Bruin has a hotter hand than Jake DeBrusk, but it appears he will be cooling his heels for a few games.
The second-line winger missed Thursday’s game against the Panthers at TD Garden with a lower-body injury. DeBrusk, who blocked a shot with his left foot early in Tuesday’s win over Carolina, possibly has a cracked bone that will need time to mend. He is officially day to day.
“I don’t believe it’s anything major,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It may be a couple days. He might be ready Saturday, it might be a week. I don’t think it’s anything noteworthy that’ll keep him out an extended period of time.”
DeBrusk, a first-time 20-goal scorer as a sophomore (22-12—34 in 57 games), wore a walking boot on his left foot after Wednesday’s practice, in which he had a tough time skating. He did not participate in Thursday’s lightly attended, optional morning skate.
Making good use of his elite speed and considerable grit, DeBrusk had 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in his previous 10 games, all in the absence of David Pastrnak (Feb. 12 thumb surgery).
DeBrusk’s centerman, David Krejci, also will be missing new addition Marcus Johansson (bruised lung) for at least another week. Krejci began Thursday’s game with Peter Cehlarik and Karson Kuhlman on his wings. Kuhlman was recalled on an emergency basis before puck drop.
Though they felt a bit sluggish at the start on Thursday — and injuries can rapidly shift perspective — the Bruins are reasonably well rested as the regular-season finish line approaches.
Running ahead of the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins would have home-ice advantage in that likely first-round series.
If the Bruins get it, Cassidy will be happy. But he refuses to red-line his club, which took Friday off from practice.
The Bruins’ ice time leader among forwards, Brad Marchand, ranked 33rd in the league among attackers (19:49) entering Thursday. He skated 22:27 on Tuesday against New Jersey, picking up extra shifts after Johansson’s first-period injury. Cassidy felt that was a high number, but for perspective, it amounts to an average night for Aleksander Barkov. Among forwards, only Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (22:55) had played more than Florida’s 23-year-old captain (22:48) entering Thursday.
The Bruins, unlike many in the league, have had the luxury of winning with four lines and three defense pairs. Their most-used defenseman, Charlie McAvoy, ranked 57th among his blue-line peers (21:47). Not leaning too heavily on those key players could help come the second week of April.
“We want to play to win every night, but still be in balance,” Cassidy said.
The Bruins have two back-to-backs the rest of the regular season (Saturday against Ottawa, Sunday at Pittsburgh; March 30 against Florida, March 31 at Detroit). Cassidy could try to rest some of his older standouts, Zdeno Chara, for example. “I already know where that conversation is going,” the coach said.
If the captain’s play is sagging, on the other hand, he might not win the argument.
Cassidy said he wants home ice in the first round — he wouldn’t get it in Round 2, should Tampa Bay advance — because it has served them well against the Leafs.
“It looks like Toronto, but who the heck knows what will happen?” Cassidy said. “We’ve played them well here, so that becomes even more of a factor. You want Game 7 at home. The end of the day, it’s more about your team playing well at the right time of year. If we play real good hockey and Toronto passes us because they play even better, it’s hard to get that upset.
“We’d like to have it, but are we going to throw everything out the window to get it? I don’t think so. We’ve got to be mindful of our health going into the playoffs.”
Sean Kuraly, back after a two-game run through concussion protocol, felt fortunate to escape major damage from a double-knock he took last Thursday against Tampa Bay.
“Back to 100 percent,” reported the hard-charging fourth-liner, recalling how he saw Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn coming at the last second. After Coburn popped him, Kuraly’s head clanked off another big blue liner, Erik Cernak.
“It’s probably one of the worst ones I’ve ever taken,” Kuraly said of the sandwich hit. “You never know. I’ve definitely been out longer with concussions. Happy to be back so quick.”
It was the second pro concussion for Kuraly, 26, who said his worst bouts with the condition came before his days at Miami of Ohio.
Defenseman Steven Kampfer led the on-ice team stretch after Wednesday’s practice, a sign of respect for a player who has a connection to the next opponent, or milestone, or other event of significance. Kampfer, who played parts of three seasons (2014-16) with the Panthers, was again a healthy scratch on Thursday.
It has not been easy for the 30-year-old, who entered the season as the Bruins’ eighth defenseman. He has not played for Boston since Dec. 23, when he scored a goal in 13:02 of work. Kampfer also accepted a five-game AHL conditioning stint.
“There’s not a lot to talk about other than, ‘Keep your chin up, keep practicing hard, because eventually your time probably will come,’ ” Cassidy said of conversations with Kampfer. “I’m 90 percent sure there will be a time between now and the end of the year where he’ll have to play.”
In opting for Kuhlman — who impressed Cassidy with his attention to detail in a four-game stint last month — the Bruins bypassed recently signed Lee Stempniak. It would take another injury to a middle-six winger for Stempniak to get a recall, since the 36-year-old (2-3—5 in seven Providence games) is more a scorer than a grinder. Cassidy mentioned before Thursday’s game that Jordan Szwarz would be next in line if the Bruins needed another energy type . . . Panther Keith Yandle (two assists) moved past Torey Krug for first among defensemen in power-play assists (27). Krug, who was scoreless, has 25. Yandle (9-45—54) is seventh in scoring among defensemen. His consecutive games streak (782) is NHL’s longest current, and fifth longest in history. He’ll need another two seasons to catch the league’s all-time iron man, Doug Jarvis (964) . . . Marchand (three assists) has an 8-15—23 line in his last 15 games. Both he and Patrice Bergeron have at least a point in each of their last 14 home games.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter @mattyports