Boston Bruins Have Offensive Options in Providence


Sep 24, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Austin Czarnik (61) celebrates a goal with defenseman Brandon Carlo (73) during the third period again the New York Rangers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

As the Bruins deal with temporary injuries to youngsters Frank Vatrano and David Pastrnak and the loss of Chris Kelly for the regular season, there are a couple of offensive-minded reinforcements they could turn to in Providence at some point.

Center Austin Czarnik and right wing Seth Griffith are both back from injuries and leading the Baby Bruins’ top line.

Although the varsity B’s opted to instead recall seasoned defensive forward Max Talbot for Saturday night’s 2-0 win against Toronto in lineup relief with Vatrano out, Czarnik or Griffith may be good options in the future if others go down and the Bruins want to put a more offensive, quick, high energy squad on the ice or use offensive alternatives for the 4th line.

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    Talbot ended up centering the 4th line, and registered a hit, takeaway and 50% faceoff wins in 9:11 of ice time, while the Bruins moved other players up in the lineup to cover Vatrano’s absence. “He’s an experienced guy,” coach Claude Julien said of Talbot on the Bruins website prior to the game. “I think that’s the comfort level. He comes, he competes hard, he understands what we’re trying to do here, so it’s not like we’re trying to teach somebody.”

    It may be short-lived with Vatrano listed day to day and expected back at practice soon from an upper body injury suffered in a recent check into the boards. And as Czarnik, 22, 5’9”, 161 lbs, and Griffith, 22, 5’9”, 191 lbs, get more game experience with Providence they could soon become other ready choices in line for the B’s should another opening arise. After being set back by a sprained knee and concussion, Griffith has 7 points in 9 games with Providence and put up 10 points in 30 games in a stint with Boston last year.

    Meanwhile Czarnik had a great camp with the B’s and was one of the late September cuts along with Vatrano before the two got off to a smoking start in Providence with Alexander Khokhlachev, who is now sidelined with a hand injury. “Czarnik and Vatrano in particular displayed many positives this preseason and very well could wind up in Boston at some point in the coming months,” NESN reported at the time.

    The right-shooting Czarnik was putting up a lot of points for Providence until he got drilled with a blindside hit Oct. 16 after breaking a pass out of the zone to Vatrano. A resulting shoulder injury kept him out a month, but he’s put up 3 points in 4 games since returning and has 8 overall in 9 games while leading the team with a +5 rating.

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    Czarnik separates himself from the pack with his speed, quickness, playmaking ability, intelligence on the ice and fierce competitiveness. “I’ve come back probably just as good or better,” Czarnik said on the Bruins Prospect Report. “My last two games I’ve been really able to control the puck a lot more and use that as a tool of mine.”

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney has had high praise for Czarnik as a promising prospect well on his way to the NHL. “[Czarnik] has courage at his size,” Sweeney told the Boston Globe after the Bruins offseason rookie tournament. “He understands he’s at times at a disadvantage defensively when he doesn’t have the puck. He’ll get a better feel for where he can stick his nose in, because he’s more than willing to. At times, you bite off a little more than you can chew. We’ve talked to him about that. But the kid makes plays. He’s got a lot of courage at his size. He acquitted himself very well.”

    While GMs took a pass on Czarnik his draft year likely due to his size, it enabled him to rack up 169 points in 159 games at Miami University of Ohio and opened up opportunities in free agency at the conclusion of his college career in March, when the B’s quickly inked him.

    Czarnik, with excellent passing abilities, developed good chemistry with the hard-shooting Vatrano at Bruins camp and in Providence before Vatrano was called up to the big club. He hopes to develop similar chemistry centering Griffith and Brandon DeFazio. “I think it’s good because [Vatrano and I] always know where each other are at,” Czarnik said in the B’s prospect report. “I know when he’s expecting the puck. I think it’s a special thing, but I feel like you can build a decent amount of chemistry with anyone if you understand how guys play.”

    Czarnik is impressed with Vatrano’s progression for Boston, where he showcased his quick release with a goal his first game while bringing relentless energy and shots from all over the ice. “He’s getting his shot off, he’s getting 4-5 shots a game and that’s probably the biggest thing that they want from him, just be an offensive guy who has a lot of high energy every single night,” Czarnik said.

    With the injury behind him Czarnik is now focused on rounding out his game, becoming more consistent defensively and shooting the puck more to complement his passing skills. He projects to be a playmaking two-way center, and also registered a 51.4% faceoff win percentage for Boston over three preseason games.

    The big hit and injury won’t phase Czarnik’s fearless approach to the game. “I think I’ve just got to keep doing the same thing I do,” he said. “It’s just part of the game.”

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