Boston Bruins practice report: Cassidy’s challenge awaits

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 3: Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy talks to his players near the end of practice during media day at the Warrior Ice Arena in Boston, Oct. 3, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 3: Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy talks to his players near the end of practice during media day at the Warrior Ice Arena in Boston, Oct. 3, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) /

With everybody in the forward group finally healthy, Bruce Cassidy and company have some decisions to make. The Boston Bruins head coach spoke about the possibilities on Friday.

It was an optional skate for the Boston Bruins on Friday afternoon, as the team gets ready for their third game in four nights when the New York Rangers visit the TD Garden on Saturday.

Ryan Spooner (lower body) has been activated from the injured reserve and was a full go in Friday’s practice.  This now leaves Bruce Cassidy with a challenging decision: who’s in, and who’s out of the lineup on Saturday.

Spooner, has only appeared in 10 games thus far, he suffered a groin injury back in October, and it has been nagging him ever since. He was sidelined for over a month after the original diagnosis, making his return back in late November. Unfortunately, he has been in and out of the lineup since then, which resulted in being put on the IR early last week.

DENVER, CO – OCTOBER 11: Ryan Spooner
DENVER, CO – OCTOBER 11: Ryan Spooner /

When asked about re-inserting the forward into the lineup after practice on Friday, Cassidy made it clear the coaching staff wants Spooner 100 percent, to avoid any further aggravation of the injury.

"“We’ll make that decision 100 percent tomorrow, but I think it’s time,” said Cassidy, before adding: “We kind of went back and forth, we don’t want a re-occurrence if we can help it. The lineup was going well, obviously. Those are two of the biggest reasons, I think.”"

With Spooner on the verge of returning the question now becomes, who sits? And where does he slide in? The team is set with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as their one-two punch down the middle, and Cassidy also noted that he has been impressed with Riley Nash centering the third line.  He later mentioned that Sean Kuraly has done well rounding out the center group on the fourth.

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With the four center spots occupied for the time being it looks like Spooner will have to play on the wing. The 25 year old was asked about the possibility, and replied “I’ve played on the wing the last four games, so, it’s fine by me.”

Odd man out

Signs are pointing towards Anders Bjork being the odd man out at first.  The rookie has hit a bit of a quiet stretch, just one point (1-0–1) since returning from an undisclosed injury against the Flyers two weeks ago. On top of that, he only saw a season low 6:47 of ice time Thursday night, after beginning the game on the second line.

Cassidy replied with the following after being asked about the rookie winger.

"“I just find that Anders is not as strong on the puck as he was at the start of the year or as quick to create turnovers,” said Cassidy. “There’s parts of his game we’re always going to work on….I think the goal [the Capitals] scored the other night is a good example. We make a play through the middle of the ice tape to tape…he’s in the crease and he’s not able to handle the puck, and they’re coming back at us while we’re thinking we’re on offense…some of it is just where he’s at in his career. Guys are stronger.”"

Beleskey to the AHL

In an corresponding move regarding Spooner’s activation, the team elected to place Matt Beleskey on waivers, which he cleared and has been assigned to Providence in the AHL.

The team inked Beleskey to a 5 year, $19 million contract back in the summer of 2015. Two and a half years later, it is safe to say the signing has been disappointing.  The forward has skated in 143 games, notching just 45 points (18-27–45) including no points in 14 games this season. He also has posted a -12 in those contests. Not exactly what the team was hoping for when they signed him.

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With Beleskey being sent down, barring any major injury it would not surprise me if we do not see him in a Bruins uniform again. There is so much young talent not just on the current roster but in the organization as well, and the 29 year old could become an after thought. The team could look to buy out the remaining two years on his contract after this season.