Truth be told, there is no good time to have your best offensive player suffer an injury during a season, but in the Bruins case with star right winger David Pastrnak (31 goals, 35 assists), this feels like a particularly cruel twist of fate.
Along with some of his teammates, Pastrnak attended a sponsorship dinner on Sunday night and afterward, he fell getting into a car and injured his left thumb. He has already had surgery on it according to Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and he will be out for at least two weeks before being re-evaluated.
With the trade deadline now less than two weeks away (Feb. 25, 3 pm ET), this puts the Bruins in a tricky position because other teams will realize that Boston now has an even bigger need for an additional scoring punch up front with Pastrnak out.
“It’s very unfortunate,” noted Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “We’re going to miss David for a period of time, we have to play and focus on what we have to do without him.”
Already in his fifth NHL season, Pastrnak was having a career year as he looked like a lock to surpass his career-high totals of 35 goals and 45 assists from last season.
He missed plenty of action in his first two campaigns, but he had become an iron man of sorts over the past few years: He played in 75 games in 2016-17 and all 82 games last season. His absence starting on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NESN) against the Chicago Blackhawks (23-24-9) leaves center David Krejci (12 goals, 31 assists) as the only other Bruin to appear in every contest so far in 2018-19.
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Obviously, the team will try to put on a brave face when addressing Pastrnak being out, what else do you expect them to say? Head coach Bruce Cassidy called it “an opportunity for others to step up. This team is used to playing tight games, that will probably be the formula moving forward.”
To spread out the scoring, Pastrnak had actually been dropped to the second line over the weekend with Danton Heinen (eight goals, eight assists) getting elevated to the top line. With Pastrnak out at morning skate on Tuesday, David Backes — who was a healthy scratch on Sunday vs. Colorado — was inserted back on the third line and struggling Jake DeBrusk (14 goals, five assists) was boosted to the second line with Krejci and rookie Peter Cehlarik (three goals, one assist).
In terms of temporary solutions (if you want to call it that) coming from within the organization, Ryan Donato (six goals, three assists) would be the call-up from Providence that makes the most sense although he’s only totaled two goals and an assist in five games in the AHL since his recent demotion from Boston.
There have been plenty of NHL scouts at TD Garden lately along with a myriad of reports of Boston’s possible trade interest in veteran wingers like Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds or Carolina’s Micheal Ferland. The price to get players of their ilk shouldn’t be too high and while Cassidy jokingly mentioned Columbus star Artemi Panarin at a press conference last week (tampering much?), it’s doubtful that Sweeney would want to part with the ransom it would take to secure the super-talented Russian who is due to be a free agent on July 1.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate