By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Just as Patrice Bergeron finally returned and made his presence felt atop the Bruins lineup, the team has to deal with more injury-fueled turmoil down the middle. This time it’s David Krejci who finds himself on the shelf as he deals with a back injury.
Now that he is officially “week-to-week,” according to head coach Bruce Cassidy, the B’s will need to take a much different approach on the second line with young wingers Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak, and subsequently the rest of the lineup.
Cassidy said it could even be “by committee.”
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the head coach addressed the Bruins’ need to survive at least the next two games without Krejci and likely longer. It appears that David Backes will take Krejci’s place for the most part, but Cassidy will almost certainly mix things up below the top line to see what works. He said they will approach it that way on a “period-by-period” basis based on matchups and performance.
“You’ve got to move someone up in the lineup, see who’s prepared to grab that opportunity,” said Cassidy.
Backes, who has mostly played right wing when Krejci and Patrice Bergeron are both in the lineup, doesn’t foresee any issues with moving back to center for the foreseeable future.
“You play center for so long, I don’t think it ever really escapes you,” said “It’s just [about] getting back in the flow of things and trying to stay off the wall, stay out of other people’s positions, support pucks, talk it out, and be other guys’ eyes so the plays get made.
With a grinder like Backes replacing a playmaker like Krejci, the young wingers will surely have to alter their games. DeBrusk, in particular, could be a good complement for Backes since he’s also not shy about playing in dirtier areas. But the 21-year-old will have to be stronger and more assertive in that area than he has been to start his rookie season.
There’s a silver lining to the Krejci injury: the next two games could be favorable matchups for Backes at the pivot. He could do what they need defensively to deal with the size that the Sharks and Kings can bring up front.
The likelihood is that Backes will see the most time up front with the kids, but Cassidy has quickly proved how willing he is to try different, sometimes unconventional combinations. So outside of the top-three forwards, there’s little use expecting anything consistent in terms of lineups.
Either way, if the Bruins can’t improve their frequently sloppy defense in the slot and in front of the net, it won’t matter who’s at center. They especially need to tighten up for the coming stretch of games, and the need for “center-by-committee” will only make that harder to accomplish.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.