PHILADELPHIA — As he hones his lineup options in advance of the Oct. 3 opener in Dallas, Bruce Cassidy professed his reassurance with Karson Kuhlman as a second-line right wing — at least to start.
“I don’t think he’s going to drop off. He may [plateau], we don’t know, but I don’t think he’s going to get worse,” Cassidy said of the 23-year-old rookie, who settled in during his 19-game run last spring with left wing Jake DeBrusk and center David Krejci.
“To me, he’s too good a person — his short career dictates, from college to Providence to here, he’ll keep working on his craft, get more comfortable.”
David Backes, who on Thursday rode with center Sean Kuraly and roster hopeful Anton Blidh, is not a full-time solution. Offseason acquisition Brett Ritchie will get a shot there at some point.
Cassidy also said Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork, the wings for center Charlie Coyle in Thursday’s game, could be backup options. Cassidy does not sound eager to use them.
Not only are both left shots and would be playing their off wing, Cassidy wants to see what Bjork can bring on his natural spot after consecutive left shoulder surgeries. With Brad Marchand and DeBrusk claiming the top two jobs, No. 3 LW is a safe break-in spot.
“I’d never seen him play live,” Coyle said of Bjork, the speedy Notre Dame product who has played in 50 games the last two years. “Just social media stuff and video. He’s really smooth . . . I think we could do pretty well as we get to know each other off the ice.”
The line was strong Thursday. Coyle’s puck protection and spinning shot off the pads of Philadelphia goalie Brian Elliott gave Heinen an easy rebound goal in the first period. Bjork was attracting attention out front.
“I think it’s crazy how he’s come back from that and handle it the way he has,” Heinen said of Bjork. “He looks like he’s right where he was when he left off. He knows he can play at this level. It’s a matter of staying healthy and showing it.”
At some point in the season, Cassidy said he would try Coyle, whose size (6 feet 3 inches, 220 pounds) and skating is similar to the wingers Krejci has had in the past. But that’s “more for down the road, playoff hockey,” in Cassidy’s words.
“I think we know we can start on opening night and Kuhly would be there and we’d be fine,” he said. “We’ll look to see if there’s a better fit.”
The Bruins topped an “A” squad of Flyers, 3-1, to bring their preseason record to 1-0-1. Peter Cehlarik scored the go-ahead goal from Brendan Gaunce at 4:16 of the second. It’s varsity or bust for Cehlarik, who has 10 points in 37 games since debuting with Boston in 2016. Because of NHL rules, the 24-year-old would have to clear waivers if shipped to Providence . . . It was a busy night for Connor Clifton, who took two penalties and scored the 3-1 goal on a breakaway out of the penalty box. “I knew I was going backhand,” Clifton said. “I don’t know what to do on breakaways.” . . . In his first preseason start, Jaroslav Halak (16 saves) made the save of the game. On a first-period power play, a shot clanked off the right post and across the crease to Philadelphia prospect Morgan Frost, who would have had a left-side tap-in if not for Halak’s spinning backhand stab. Frost skated away in disbelief. Halak’s only goal allowed came from defenseman Matt Niskanen, who tied the game at 1 midway through the first with a far-side bullet through traffic. Maxime Lagace relieved him to begin the third and stopped all 10 shots he faced.
Patrice Bergeron (groin) reported feeling A-OK after his first back-to-back practices. He remains “very confident” he’ll be ready for Oct. 3 opener . . . The Bruins finish their preseason road trip Saturday in Chicago (3 p.m.). They plan to make an initial round of cuts Sunday, with Providence camp opening Monday along with a game against the Flyers at TD Garden. The ax swings again after Wednesday’s tilt with the Devils . . . Former Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who recently signed on as a consultant with the St. Louis Blues, chatted amicably with the Bruins brass in the Wells Fargo Center cafeteria before the game. Chiarelli, a Harvard graduate, still lives in the Boston area.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports