LAS VEGAS - To start the 2018-19 season, the Bruins' Atlantic division rivals the Tampa Bay Lighting and Toronto Maple Leafs soared out to big early leads in the division. Meanwhile, the Black & Gold were decimated by injuries up and down the lineup. From being down to the 12th defenseman to missing leaders Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara simultaneously, the Bruins struggled to keep pace in the Atlantic.
Powered by a season-high seven-game win streak, the B's have now collected 80 points in 61 games. That total puts the in the 3rd spot in the entire National Hockey League, just one point behind the Western Conference leading Calgary Flames.
On Saturday, when the Bruins take on the St. Louis Blues - the lone NHL team with a winning streak longer than the B's - they will introduce new acquisition Charlie Coyle to the lineup to shore up the third line.
Video: Cassidy addresses media after B's acquire Coyle
"We're excited to be adding Charlie Coyle to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Ryan Donato and a conditional 5th round pick," said Bruins GM Don Sweeney on a conference call with the media on Thursday morning. "We wish Ryan Donato very well - a special young man and he will have a long career in the National Hockey League so we wish him well.
"Really the impetus behind the trade for us was to provide more depth to our lineup. Especially 5-on-5, I think the balance in scoring is something that as of late we've done a real good job of but it's an area we needed to address. It also gives us a two-position player with size and strength and speed that we can move around the lineup and feel comfortable in a bunch of different positions and a bunch of different roles."
Charlie Coyle hails from Weymouth, MA, just a half-hour South of his new place of work. Growing up, the 26-year-old played alongside current Bruins forward Chris Wagner for the South Shore Kings. Sweeney was asked if the he factored Coyle's upbringing into the decision to acquire the forward.
"We factor that in in trying to continue to learn from the personalities of the players and do your due diligence," said Sweeney. "In speaking with Chris Wagner in regards to Charlie and people that know, people that played with him, grown up with him. How's he going to handle some of the things, as you referenced, are they going to be challenges?
"It does add another layer that you need to sort of identify, openly discuss and really try and tap into the resources that you have to identify whether or not that player will thrive in this marketplace. So, we feel comfortable in this regard, and hopefully we're right."
David Backes is another current player who is familiar with Coyle from his time with the Central division's St. Louis Blues.
"Big body with tons of athletic ability," said Backes. "I think he's only going to help us. I don't know where he slots in but not fun to play against with his size and ability to control pucks and finish plays. A good addition.
"I think we'd be remised not to think of the other side of that too of Dono [Ryan Donato]. That's a young kid with a lot of skill - trying to bring him along and to teach him how to be a pro and get into the system too. You're going to miss a kid like that. While you miss him, obviously they're doing it to get some impact right now and Charlie is an everyday NHLer that can step in the lineup and be a factor right away. Looking forward to that."
Sweeney discussed where the 6-foot-3, 220-pound forward will fit in the lineup, noting Coyle's versatility.
"We do feel that his natural position is center," said Sweeney. "He has been used a lot at wing in a top-six role. A definitive top-nine player that has been in the top four or five players in Minnesota for the past five years in five-on-five production. He can help drive a line as well support and complement players if you want to play him in a production role, be it with it [David] Krejci or who knows, we've played [David] Pastrnak a little bit in breaking up the top line and go up and play against heavier groups."
Thus far, the Bruins have relied on youngsters Jakob Forsback Karlsson and Trent Frederic among others to try to fill the third line center role.
"We found out early in the year with Bergeron going down, that we slid some younger players in there and albeit they did very well," said Sweeney. "Not disappointed in how Forsbacka-Karlsson handled his - his production has been pretty good. Trent Frederic is going through his indoctrination in the National Hockey League and certainly the emergence of [what] people identify as our fourth line, we've utilized them as a third line with the minutes they've played. And they've played very well. Overall the balance has kind of been there. I think that Charlie represents depth and flexibility for our hockey club."
Sweeney believes Coyle's skillset will fit nicely alongside the current group of Bruins forwards.
"I like his size and strength in the middle of the ice," said Sweeney. "You know, watching him play the wing, he's not necessarily a shoot-first guy. He's a possession player, and can he complement? Certainly. You know, he can score, but he's a bit unselfish in that regard. You know, he's put anywhere from 50 to 30 points. He's a system player, as a I mentioned to five-on-fiove production is there. I do believe he is going to come in and complement our group. I think he'll help drive a third line to give us more depth and more balance."