BOSTON - Following the Bruins' loss to the Canadiens on Tuesday night in Montreal, one of the consensus bright spots was the play of young winger Zach Senyshyn, who was making his season debut after being recalled from Providence earlier in the day.
Senyshyn, with just two games of NHL experience under his belt, was one of Boston's best players, teaming up with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle to put forth a strong effort from the B's third line that included a goal by Bjork and another tally from Coyle that was wiped off the board because of an offside challenge.
It was about as good of an effort as the Bruins could have hoped for from the 22-year-old former first-round pick. And on Wednesday, his performance was solidified further when the National Hockey League awarded Senyshyn with two assists - the first helpers of his career - on goals by Bjork and Connor Clifton. A third was negated on the offside review.
"It was a nice surprise yesterday," said Senyshyn, who scored his first career goal in his NHL debut last April. "It was just nice to be out there for those. Definitely gives you a little bit of confidence, but I'm more just looking at the other parts of my game - advancing pucks, having a good stick, kind of doing those little details.
"Again, just trying to help the team win. It's not necessarily your points. I had a very slow start to my year in Providence and sometimes it's not even the fact of you getting points or not, sometimes it's just puck luck."
Video: Senyshyn talks about his game on Tuesday in Montreal
Senyshyn, who had three points (two goals, assist) in 12 games for the P-Bruins this season, was back with Bjork and Coyle for Thursday's practice and is likely to skate alongside them again on Friday night against the Detroit Red Wings. Given the instant chemistry they displayed against the Canadiens, it seemed like an easy decision for Cassidy to give the trio another look.
"Great environment in Montreal. Good for [Senyshyn]," said Cassidy. "He gets to experience that, especially with the rivalry. But at the end of the day, it's the National Hockey League. It's gonna be a good team he's playing [Friday] night. I thought he handled it very well. He gave us about 11 solid minutes. He's on the puck. Him and Bjorkie did a real good job getting on pucks, turning pucks over to give us a chance to get on the attack.
"[Senyshyn] drew a penalty by going to the net, getting inside ice - something we've asked him to do - used his speed and his body position. That was a great example of that. Freed up a few pucks on the forecheck, got a couple assists - though he wasn't credited with them [initially]. He had a lot to do with a couple of those goals by getting to pucks first. Win your races, be accountable defensively."
Senyshyn credited his linemates with helping him ease into his season debut, noting Coyle's veteran presence and strong puck possession skills, as well as his friendship with Bjork, which has been built up over the years as they've grown together through Development Camps and their days in Providence.
"Me and Anders have been very close friends but haven't really played too much together down in Providence," said Senyshyn. "But it's always a treat to play with a guy with that much speed and skill. It's awesome to have him as a friend on the bench, too.
"I've really admired his game and have been able to watch him pretty closely in Providence and over the course of time since I've been drafted. I've seen him at all of our development camps, rookie camps and he's been a treat to watch and a pleasure to play with."
Video: BOS@MTL: Bjork sweeps home loose puck for equalizer
Despite his early success, Senyshyn knows he must continue to build his game, and went over some areas of improvement with Cassidy before and during Thursday's skate.
"He gave me some things to work on for Detroit and some stuff to really focus on, which is good," said Senyshyn. "That's progress, not perfection. There's no such things as a perfect game of hockey and that's what I'm trying to focus on, bringing more things to my game and improving each game that I'm up here."
Jake DeBrusk did not practice on Thursday morning and will not travel to Detroit for Friday night's game against the Red Wings as he deals with a lower-body injury suffered against Montreal. Cassidy said the winger's status beyond that remains in question as he undergoes more testing.
"Played through the game the other night…woke up yesterday not feeling great," said Cassidy. "He's had that checked out and continues to get it checked out. Will not travel with us. Will Probably have a much better idea when we get a medical report."
With DeBrusk sidelined, Peter Cehlarik - who was recalled from Providence on Thursday morning - will take his place as the B's second-line left wing alongside David Krejci and Danton Heinen.
On the Mend
Joakim Nordstrom (infection), Par Lindholm (upper body), and Kevan Miller (knee) all practiced in maroon non-contact jerseys as they make their way back from injury. David Backes (upper body) did not skate, but is feeling better, per Cassidy.
Out of that group, Nordstrom is the closest to a return to game action. Miller, who has not played since April, could be just a couple of weeks away from suiting up.
"Wouldn't be Tuesday [against Florida]…I wouldn't rule out [next weekend], but I think it's more likely the following week [of November 18]," said Cassidy.
John Moore, meanwhile, skated on his own before practice but is nearing a return to the full group. The defenseman has been rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.
"He's able to join the group a little bit now on some of the line drills," said Cassidy. "We just had eight D out there…he's not ready for contact."
Video: Cassidy talks with media after Thursday's practice
Switching Things Up
Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy have paired together almost exclusively as Boston's No. 1 defense duo since McAvoy entered the league during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But during Thursday's practice, the two were split up, with Chara paired with Connor Clifton and McAvoy alongside former Boston University partner Matt Grzelcyk.
Cassidy's thinking? To free up McAvoy - who has four assists in 15 games - for a bit more offense and create some more balance on the back end.
"We see it as being more equitable if Clifton goes with Zee. We're gonna give it a go," said Cassidy. "It matches the size factor a little better. We always thought Grizz and Clifton was two good players, but are they an ideal pair? This allows Charlie to free up a bit on the offensive side of things, maybe not get the heavy matchup every time over the boards.
"Zee will definitely be matched up. That's his strength. We'll see with each game how long it lasts, but that's the thinking. Balance the pairs a little bit. A lot of hockey here, maybe balance the minutes a little more.
"Grizz and Charlie have had a good relationship from BU, they play well together. Not worried about that. Zee and Clifton, we haven't seen much of, so we'll see."
Video: McAvoy talks to media following Thursday's practice
Thursday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Peter Cehlarik - David Krejci - Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Zach Senyshyn
Chris Wagner - Sean Kuraly - Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm
Zdeno Chara - Connor Clifton
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Charlie McAvoy
Steven Kampfer - Kevan Miller