By Ryan Ellis | Follow Ryan on Twitter @_RyEllis_
Boston Bruins forward Curtis Lazar has sustained an upper-body injury and is currently considered “week-to-week,” according to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, who met with the media after today’s practice. Lazar made himself a fourth-line staple following a 2021 trade deadline deal that sent Anders Bjork and a second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for him and Taylor Hall. Lazar, who spent most of his time last year at center, has been confidently projected to play on the right-wing of the newly acquired pivot, Tomas Nosek.
Curtis Lazar provided an instant upgrade to the bottom-six for the Bruins late last season and into the playoffs. This season he is expected to be a key contributor to a revamped forward group that, for the most part, impressed throughout the preseason games. With the regular-season opener at home vs. the Dallas Stars just eight days away, and without “an exact diagnosis,” according to Cassidy, it will remain unclear how long to expect Lazar to remain sidelined.
Bruce Cassidy has plenty of options to consider replacing Lazar if he does indeed need more time to heal. It likely means more time with the big club for someone who would otherwise be Providence (or waivers) bound. For some Bruins fans, this news comes as an intriguing opportunity for Jack Studnicka to carve out an opening night roster spot. However, that remains unlikely, as it would most likely mean slowing down his progress as a center, which makes little sense from an organizational standpoint.
Instead of performing a full-blown fourth-line shuffle to keep Studnicka at the center position, it is far more likely Cassidy elects to play veteran Chris Wagner in place of Lazar until he returns. Wagner has been a staple of the Bruins fourth-line since the 2018-2019 season, playing in 184 of a possible 208 regular-season games since then. Despite not being that fanbase’s first choice, the 2019 Bruins Seventh Player Award winner’s durability and system knowledge is enough for Coach Cassidy.
If Wagner’s fit with Nosek and Frederic leaves Cassidy wanting, the next logical guess would be Karson Kuhlman. Kuhlman has served as one of, if not the most, favorable winger call-ups for Cassidy. He’s played a total of 56 regular-season games, scoring 13 points in the past three seasons with the big club.
Although an opportunity for Studnicka would provide plenty of sports-media fodder, it would seem to be counter-productive in more ways than one. In fitting him into the lineup, you’d be robbing Peter to pay Paul. To do so, you would have to do one of the following:
- Take Nosek away from his preferred pivot position.
- Shuffling a third-line that seems to have solid chemistry and production potential.
- Stick Studnicka on the wing, hindering his development as a center.
Let’s not forget that Lazar serves as a top penalty-killing option when the first unit of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand aren’t on the ice. He and Nosek seemed to have gelled as the early favorites for the second PK unit, and Cassidy would have to consider special teams roles when filling in for the injured forward.
Hopefully, Lazar’s injury won’t lead to significant time off the ice. In the meantime, we’ll see if Cassidy offers up any further information on Lazar’s absence between now and October 16th, when the Boston Bruins host the Dallas Stars at home in the TD Garden.