BOSTON - Matt Grzelcyk took no pleasure in seeing one of his fellow Bruins defensemen go down with an injury this preseason. But when Torey Krug suffered a jaw fracture in the second exhibition contest, the former Boston University star knew an opportunity had presented itself.
With the Bruins suddenly in search of a replacement, a competition emerged between Grzelcyk, Rob O'Gara, and Paul Postma for Boston's last remaining spot on the blue line. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said on Saturday that no decision has been made on which player will emerge, meaning the last preseason tune-up against the Chicago Blackhawks could very well act as a final audition for the trio and determine which player is in the lineup on Opening Night.
"Just going to try to put my best foot forward," said Grzelcyk. "You hate to see someone get injured on the team, but just going to try to play to the best of my abilities and see what happens."
Grzelcyk possesses a similar skill set to Krug - an offensive, puck-moving blue-liner with a strong power-play acumen - but he knows that alone won't guarantee him the spot.
"I want to be my own player," said Grzelcyk. "Obviously Torey's an established player and if I can pick up anything that he does well I'm trying to do that. I think just talking to the coaching staff I'm trying to be more assertive out there, use my skating abilities to my advantage out there and close out plays and use my smarts to angle guys off better."
Video: Grzelcyk speaks ahead of the final preseason game
Grzelcyk is not the only one who will be trying to make one last impression on the Bruins' decision makers Saturday night. Much of the roster for the game consists of players trying to secure a place on the varsity.
"There's still a few guys where we want to get a little bit of a read on, if some guys jump off the page a little bit for future call-ups," said Cassidy. "Everyone is in a different spot. There are some guys that are in the lineup that need to sharpen up their games. As a team you want to continue to build on your identity and be hard to play against, make sure we're playing with pace and executing the things we're asking."
One player who is not expected to suit up against the Blackhawks is rookie winger Anders Bjork, who Cassidy said has all but sewn up a spot.
"Bjork looks like he'll start in the lineup. I don't want to say concrete…looks like he's going to be a fit," said Cassidy. "We've used him with [Patrice Bergeron] and [Brad Marchand], but he can play the other side. So could he flip with [David] Krejci and [David Pastrnak] as well? We haven't looked at that much, but it could happen.
"But we like where his game is at right now. We just think that Bjork is probably the furthest ahead of all the young guys."
Right behind Bjork are fellow youngters Jake DeBrusk and Sean Kuraly, both of whom will also be trying to make a final push against the Blackhawks.
"DeBrusk we're going to keep in there. We're looking for a few more things out of his game ¬- we like it as well," said Cassidy. "We're putting Kuraly back in there, but we like where his game has been and what he brings, energy and turning pucks over. Hasn't resulted in a lot of offense, but we believe it will over time if he continues to play like that.
"We're looking at him on the wing a little more tonight - we've had him at center - because he might have to move around."
Saturday's Projected Lineup
Jordan Szwarz, Tommy Cross, and Jakub Zboril were recalled from Providence to help fill out the lineup for Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, while defensemen Chris Breen and Connor Clifton also traveled with the team to Chicago.
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Danton Heinen
Tim Schaller - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari
Jake DeBrusk - Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson - Teddy Purcell
Sean Kuraly - Jordan Szwarz - Frank Vatrano
Rob O'Gara - Paul Postma
Matt Grzelcyk - Tommy Cross
Chris Breen - Jakub Zboril