Boston Bruins: Clifton Making His Presence Felt

Boston Bruins, Connor Clifton #75 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Boston Bruins, Connor Clifton #75 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

If everything goes well, the Boston Bruins could be on the verge of getting defensemen Matt Grzelcyk back in the not too distant future. Grzelcyk is battling his third injury this season, his second lower-body, but is expected to be on the ice this week for practice ahead of Wednesday nights at Madison Square Garden in New York against the Rangers.

When Grzelyck is able to return, that would mean Connor Clifton, the Bruins seventh defensemen, would be the odd man out and shift back to the taxi squad. Edged out by Kevan Miller in training camp for the third and final pairing with Jakub Zboril, Clifton was ready when Grz went down and missed the last four games on the Black and Gold’s recent road trip.

Getting the power play defensemen back would be a boost to the Bruins, but Clifton should be ready at any point should another injury occur on the blue line as he played well in Grz’s place. In his latest stint with Boston, he made his presence felt with a more physical game.

Clifton making his presence felt on the Bruins defense.

Clifton took Grzelcyk’s spot with Brandon Carlo and played well in the four games. The 2013 fifth-round pick by the then-Arizona Coyotes at No. 133, has dressed in six games overall this season and has not been afraid to back down from anyone.

Friday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, he dropped the gloves in the first period with Nicolas Aube-Kubel and held his own after connecting on a few punches. He also delivered a hit at the Boston blue line to Oskar Lindblom in the third period and sent him to the locker room for the remainder of the game.

Clifton is not going to light up the scoresheet, as he is more of a stay-at-home defenseman. He has just two goals and an assist in 56 regular-season games in his career. He averaged 17:08 of time on ice in the six games in 2021.

Getting Grzelcyk back is a welcomed addition to a Bruins young defense that is playing much better than a lot of people expected this season. Losing Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara was two huge holes that needed to be filled, but through 11 games, the younger players have been up to the challenge.

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That includes Clifton, who has done nothing that would suggest he needs to come out of the lineup. He will, however, come out of the lineup when Grzelcyk returns, but the 25-year-old should stay ready as another injury on defense for the Bruins means he’s right back in.