photo credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

By: Mandi Mahoney  |  Check Me Out On Twitter @phoneymahoney

Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy said on Sunday that Patrice Bergeron could rejoin the rest of his Bruins teammates for a full practice this Wednesday. Bergeron returning to the lineup is a possibility after practicing with the team. Obviously, their star center returning to the lineup would be the ultimate Christmas gift for the injury-riddled Bruins.

Bergeron sustained a rib and sternoclavicular injury in Dallas during a 1-0 loss to the Stars when Dallas center Radek Faksa drove him into the boards while battling for the puck. Bergeron hit the boards awkwardly, went to the Bruins’ locker room, and returned to the game later. Upon returning, he was unable to take faceoffs and was nowhere near effective as usual. Four days later, the Bruins announced that Bergeron would be shelved for four weeks, and then re-evaluated. Tuesday, December 18 will be four weeks from the announcement, so things appear to be right on schedule.

Since losing Bergeron, the Bruins have gone 7-6-1 in fourteen games. During this period, the team has had continued problems creating offense, as Cassidy has jumbled the forward lines several times. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was centering the third line, then he was bumped up to play between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

That didn’t work out, so David Krejci was moved up to play with Marchand and Pastrnak, while JFK was moved back to his usual third line spot. Colby Cave has been centering the second line, which hasn’t been particularly productive since Jake DeBrusk was injured and Krejci was moved up. Krejci and his new linemates have been enjoying some chemistry, however.

Recently, there has been much debate about what Cassidy should do with the forward lines once Bergeron returns. Some say the best line in hockey should be reunited, others say Krejci should continue centering Marchand and Pastrnak, while others view Bergeron playing with anyone else as being a demotion. There has been speculation that Cassidy would keep Bergeron and Marchand together and have Krejci and Pastrnak play together, as well.

Since there are so many possible line combinations, there’s a chance more than one or two of them could work in the Bruins’ favor. Let’s start by saying that while Joakim Nordstrom and David Backes have been moved all over the lineup this season and have both done an adequate job in whatever role they’ve been asked to play, neither player belongs on either of the top two lines. Danton Heinen is another player who is a veritable Swiss  Army knife but is more of a third line type of guy. Colby Cave is another player who has done well in playing the cards he was dealt, but with Bergeron back, he should return to the bottom six, or more likely, Providence.

Asking Patrice Bergeron to skate with linemates other than the elite scoring machines that are Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak is not a demotion – not even close. If anything, it speaks to just how much Bruce Cassidy can trust Bergeron in any situation. Since Marchand and Pastrnak are gelling with David Krejci, there is no reason to split them up without giving a line consisting of Patrice Bergeron, Jake DeBrusk and one of the Bruins young goal-scoring prospects a look first. Anders Bjork can be electric at times and could be a good fit with Bergeron and DeBrusk – Cassidy won’t know unless he tries it for more than a shift or two. Bjork or Donato may be interchangeable in this role, as each of them has played well at times on both the second and third lines, and who better to show them the ropes than Mr. Perfect himself?

Nobody should be looking at Bergeron shepherding younger players as a demotion, especially since Bergeron undoubtedly sees it as his job. If the Bruins can get something other than the first and third lines going, then they could be dangerous. They’ll need all the points they can get, given the hyper-competitive Atlantic Division this season. It could be worth his while if Cassidy is willing to try something different.


photo credit: Winslow Townson / AP Photo

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