The Boston Bruins have suffered their first somewhat significant injury.
Bruce Cassidy announced on Friday that Curtis Lazar is dealing with an upper-body injury and is to be considered “week-to-week.”
Lazar was acquired last season at the trade deadline in the Taylor Hall trade. He skated in 17 regular season games with the Bruins, recording two goals and two assists in a fourth-line role.
Leading up to this season, Lazar looked to have locked down a wing spot on the fourth line again. That last line was shaping up to be Tomas Nosek in the middle of Trent Frederic and Lazar, however with the Lazar injury, that now opens a spot in the opening night lineup.
How does the Lazar injury affect the lineup?
My first thought was this would allow Jack Studnicka to have a spot on the roster, who has arguably been the best Bruin throughout the preseason. With a gap on the fourth line, Cassidy could drop down Nick Foligno to play with Frederic and Nosek. Either Charlie Coyle could then move from the second-line center to third line, or just put Studnicka on the third line in between Erik Haula and Jake DeBrusk.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Cassidy mentioned that they like how their top-nine is formed right now. If Cassidy isn’t going to change the first three lines, that means Studnicka’s only opportunity with Boston would be on that bottom line. It doesn’t make sense to play Studnicka on the fourth line when he can get top minutes in the AHL, which would greatly benefit his development.
So that would mean that Studnicka is in the AHL, and likely Chris Wagner gets the open spot on the fourth line, which makes sense. Wagner hasn’t been totally impressive in preseason, but the fourth line is a role that he is suited for.
With Wagner promoted to the fourth line, Cassidy would just need to bring someone up into the 13th forward role, where there are plenty of candidates. Either Anton Blidh or Karson Kuhlman would likely get that spot.
The Bruins needed to get more out of their bottom-six this season, and losing Lazar to start the season won’t help. He looked like he would be an effective player in the fourth-line role. Lazar should be back soon, but the Bruins need Wagner, Blidh or Kuhlman to step up in his absence.