Something that the Youngstown Phantoms hinted at on December 28 was made official by the Bruins a day later. Center Georgii Merkulov was called up by the Bruins from AHL Providence and is likely to make his NHL debut on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.
The move comes as the Bruins are dealing with a bit of adversity after a four-game losing streak entering the holiday break was snapped on Wednesday with an important win over the Buffalo Sabres. With the Bruins needing all the scoring help they can get, Merkulov will surely help in that regard. However, Jim Montgomery said that's not the sole reason he was called up.
"The reason he got called up is because of his 200-foot game, not because he's scoring a lot. Because on our team we have guys that are paid a lot of money to score goals, right? And he's got to come in and support that and be part of what we're trying to build as a team."- Jim Montgomery
At practice on Friday, Merkulov was the center for the Bruins third line, with veteran James van Riemsdyk on his left and Trent Frederic on his right. The top two lines remained the same from the Sabres game, with Morgan Geekie centering Pavel Zacha and David Pastrnak, while Charlie Coyle centered Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk. Danton Heinen was slotted in at fourth-line right wing.
Through 31 games in Providence, Merkulov continued to show off his scoring skills. His 14 goals put him in a tie with two others for second, with a tie for first at 16 goals ahead of them. His 30 points are good for fourth among AHL skaters, while he leads Providence in both goals and assists.
With a back-to-back against the Devils and Detroit Red Wings over the weekend to end 2023 coming up, the addition of Merkulov to the picture will surely help the Bruins offense and hopefully add more to the team's defensive game as well. Welcome to the show.