Why Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner aren’t the Bruins’ fourth line

Matt Kalman
October 22, 2019 - 1:25 pm

The small sect of Bruins fans that have been living off outrage about Anders Bjork starting the season in Providence of the AHL as though it’s oxygen won’t have to suffocate.

Because although Bjork’s promotion would normally quell the anger, his placement in the Bruins’ lineup – at least to start – against the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tuesday night’s game should continue to exercise their lungs.

Coach Bruce Cassidy had Bjork skate on left wing in Joakim Nordstrom’s usual spot next to center Sean Kuraly and right wing Chris Wagner. during the morning skate. Nordstrom will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury and the Bjork-Kuraly-Wagner combination should start out together against the Maple Leafs.

Bjork was one of the Bruins' last cut before the start of the regular season.

“You know when he left he was bringing lots of energy, was on tops of pucks, he was attacking the net. Did a lot of things well,” Cassidy said after the morning skate Tuesday. “Seemed stronger, sustained his shifts better from the first period to the third period. I put him on that line because I think he has certainly some of what Nordy brings on that line, which is they’re effective because they’re hard to play against, some of them are tenacious, some of them are on pucks, some of them are a bit of both. And I think his defensive game has improved, so we’ll see if he’s prepared for that. So that was the thinking there.

“He’s got two very responsible players, he can add a little offense to that group. Not a lot of pressure for him to go out necessarily and score. We’ll see how he plays up here and then decide what the best fit is.”

Bjork had two assists in four games in the preseason, but that didn’t reflect how many scoring chances he was involved in. The Bruins wanted him to go to Providence to work on his offensive confidence and finishing. He accomplished that – three goals, five assists in seven games – but still might not have been called up this soon were it not for injuries to Nordstrom, David Krejci (upper body) and Karson Kuhlman (lower body).

Now that he’s back in the NHL, some are complaining that he’s skating on the “fourth line.” But any astute observer of the Bruins knows that any line with Kuraly (sixth among Boston forwards in 5-on-5 ice time per game at 13:25) and Wagner (eighth at 12:24) is far from the fourth line. Kuraly and Wagner saw a lot of Auston Matthews and William Nylander in Toronto on Saturday. And two games ago against Tampa Bay, Kuraly, Wagner and Nordstrom were the primary matchup for the Lightning’s super line of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov (eight to nine minutes of 5-on-5 head-to-head action).

Wagner and Kuraly get more ice time than the likes of Danton Heinen and Brett Ritchie, and with Krejci out (no offense to Charlie Coyle) the Bruins don’t have a prototypical second line. So in effect, adding Bjork’s offense to the Kuraly-Wagner combo could make solid second line for the Bruins.

Or maybe not. We know Cassidy is the master toggler, and he won’t hesitate to mix things up if the Bruins don’t start as well as he wants. Just keep in mind that the Bruins want to keep Bjork on the left side for both his health and his best chance to be productive.

We’ll see how things play out against Toronto, but don’t just wallow in misery thinking Bjork’s being buried on a fourth line.

Injury department

Krejci was placed on injured reserve, but that’s retroactive to when he last played Oct. 14 against Anaheim. So he could return any time. He remains day-to-day. ...

Kuhlman had x-rays that are still being assessed, Cassidy said. …

Nordstrom skated, as did Par Lindholm on Tuesday. Both we wearing red no-contact jerseys for practice Monday.

No. 500

Tuukka Rask will start in net and play his 500th NHL game.

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