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By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

Don Sweeney’s primary trade deadline acquisition is inching closer to cracking Jim Montgomery’s lineup. Pat Maroon—who is recovering from back surgery he underwent on February 6—is practicing with the Boston Bruins and is currently with the team on the road ahead of their matchup with the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

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While there is no specific timetable for Maroon’s return to game action, Montgomery teased the April 13 matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a best-case scenario for the power forward’s debut with the B’s. Maroon hasn’t played a National Hockey League game since January 27, and is beginning to ramp up his return to play plan under Bruins management.

“He is making the steps to get closer,” Montgomery told reporters following Monday’s skate. “When he first got here, we said we knew it was going to be a couple of weeks. Now it really is week-to-week, and as he hits more of the steps and milestones, it’ll become day-to-day.”

Assuming Maroon stays on track with his timetable, where would he fit into Boston’s lineup? And who would draw out? Montgomery and his coaching staff still have a few more weeks to make that decision. In the meantime, Boston’s bottom six will be competing for their respective spots on the depth charts.

At Monday morning’s skate at Warrior Ice Arena, Maroon skated with Pavel Zacha and Danton Heinen on the second line as David Pastrnak took a maintenance day. It is unlikely Maroon will see any time in the top six in game action, and most likely bumped into Pastrnak’s spot simply to keep the other combinations intact.

So, that leaves either a third or fourth line role for the 6’3″, 234-pound Maroon. Morgan Geekie and Trent Frederic have proved to be mainstays in Boston’s lineup, having posted career-highs of 16-21-37 and 18-21-39 respectively this season. And with the way John Beecher has been playing lately, the fiery faceoff aficionado has proved his worth of an opportunity to play in the postseason.

Given Maroon is a winger, that only leaves three choices: Jakub Lauko, Justin Brazeau, and James van Riemsdyk. If Brazeau continues to impress in his first NHL stint, it doesn’t look like he’ll draw out for Maroon. By process of elimination, all fingers are pointing to Lauko as the odd man out.

(Photo Credit: Derek Cain/Getty Images)

But nothing is ever set in stone. If Lauko impresses in his next few games, van Riemsdyk could be forced to step aside for Maroon. However, he won’t be receiving that opportunity Tuesday night in Nashville, as Lauko is out of the lineup. The pair of fourth liners have been equally as cold lately, being held without a goal in each of their last 15 games. Lauko hasn’t lit the lamp since late January.

While Lauko has proven he can bring some tenacity into Montgomery’s lineup with his willingness to lay a big hit or step into the ring, he’s appeared to have gotten away from that style of play as of late. Even through van Riemsdyk’s offensive drought, he still has the ability to positively impact Boston’s 200-foot game.

Then, it’s just the issue of where to put the centers, where Beecher or Jesper Boqvist may be on the ropes. If Boqvist draws out, a few things could happen. The most obvious choice may be to bump Beecher down to center the fourth line alongside Maroon and Brazeau, inserting van Riemsdyk on the third line. Redgardless of where he ends up, Maroon is excited to join the Black and Gold at some point.

“I’m certainly excited to feel a part of it and just excited to be back,” he said on Monday.