NEW YORK — Only a week to go before their season opener, the Bruins are still tinkering with what side they think best suits Jake DeBrusk.
“All options are on the table,” coach Jim Montgomery said Wednesday, prior to the Bruins facing the Rangers here in their next-to-last exhibition tuneup. “Left or right, we’re thinking of a lot of options to play with [Patrice Bergeron] and JD.”
Which is to say, until further notice, it appears that Bergeron and DeBrusk remain penciled in as a tandem for next Wednesday night’s opener in D.C. Part of the X factor in determining where DeBrusk wings it best is the injury left winger Taylor Hall sustained Saturday when the Flyers were in town.
Hall, back skating Wednesday morning for the first time since the injury, originally was slated to play left wing with David Krejci at center and David Pastrnak on right wing. If Hall can’t suit up next week, then Pavel Zacha probably moves into his spot and rounds out an all-Czech trio.
Zacha, originally pegged as Bergeron’s left winger, then most likely would yield his spot to DeBrusk, a lefty shot, leaving Montgomery to find a suitable body for right wing. The cast of right wings that suited up here included Marc McLaughlin, prized prospect Fabian Lysell, and ex-Golden Gopher Vinni Lettieri, the latter of whom has logged 82 NHL games over five seasons since graduating from the University of Minnesota.
Of the three, McLaughlin thus far has exhibited the best nose for the net, and willingness to penetrate that tricky “inside ice” area that has proven such a bugaboo for the Bruins in recent years.
But Lysell, yet to play a single NHL game, also has caught Montgomery’s eye. The fast, slick Swede, who led WHL Vancouver in scoring last season, his displayed some dynamic moves. McLaughlin brings more of the old-school grinding presence to the area, while Lysell uses his legs and stick skill to zip around the area and create chances.
“How quickly he can get into a scoring position,” said Montgomery, noting the situation where Lysell’s skill has been most obvious. “We saw that on the power play. We see how quickly he can get to an inside scoring area and put [defenders] on their heels.”
Lysell was set to open the night on a line with John Beecher in the middle and Jakub Lauko on the opposite (left) wall. McLaughin was on the right side of a trio centered by Jack Studnicka and flanked by DeBrusk. Lettieri, who signed as a free agent over the summer, was on a line that had Joona Koppanen at pivot and vet Chris Wagner flipped over to the left side.
Zacha, Krejci, and Pastrnak formed the No. 1 line. Bergeron remained home and is expected to suit up in Saturday’s exhibition-season closer at TD Garden vs. the Devils.
Hall on the mend
On Monday, Montgomery characterized Hall as “week to week” with his upper-body injury. To see Hall back on skates Wednesday morning, albeit not for any physical engagement, made for some potential good news.
“What I’m finding out is how tough he is,” offered Montgomery. “I guess his pain tolerance is really high. He’s pushing it; he doesn’t want to be week to week, and we’re monitoring him.”
Oskar Steen entered camp as a candidate for right wing duty, but the 24-year-old Swede, who displayed a semblance of spark in his 20 varsity games last season, was placed on waivers Tuesday for demotion to AHL Providence. The reason? “I think other players outplayed him in camp so far,” said a blunt Montgomery. “That’s the determining factor.” Steen cleared waivers and can continue his dream with the WannaB’s. In April, he signed a two-year, one-way deal that will bring him a total $1.6 million over these next two seasons … Zacha, Krejci, Pastrnak, and DeBrusk were the four regulars who dressed for the visit to Manhattan, joined by Brandon Carlo and Mike Reilly on the back end. Jeremy Swayman was in net, an indication that Linus Ullmark, who remained home, will get the call for the final tuneup vs. the Devils. Kyle Keyser, who saw relief duty Monday when Keith Kinkaid needed a breather in the third period, entered the night as Swayman’s backup ... Veteran defenseman Anton Stralman, still in contention to have his tryout contract turn into an NHL deal, was in the lineup vs. the Rangers. It’s an increasing likelihood that he’ll be signed and with the club for the opener in D.C. … The Bruins will depart Boston Monday and practice in D.C. on Tuesday, allowing time for a team dinner ahead of opening puck drop.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.