BOSTON — David Pastrnak donned a gold practice jersey during Thursday’s practice at TD Garden, and while he was a welcome sight skating alongside Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said Pastrnak is not quite in the clear -- yet -- with just two preseason games remaining.
“That’s the hope,” Julien said, when asked if Pastrnak might get into one of these last two games, scheduled for Friday versus the Islanders and Saturday versus Detroit. “I think right now, he’s feeling good. He looks like he’s ready, and the only thing that's stopping us from saying yes right now is we just need the doctors to clear him.
“[I’m] feeling confident that he will be [cleared], from what David’s telling me himself — he feels good, so we’ll wait and see, and probably be able to confirm that for you [Friday] morning.”
Pastrnak, Boston’s first-round pick (25th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, has not played in a preseason game since main camp began, though he did participate in the Rookie Tournament in Nashville the week prior. On the second day of practices, Pastrnak came off the ice early after losing his balance and going into the boards awkwardly, tweaking his shoulder.
“It’s always the worst part for a hockey player, when you’re just watching games and you can’t play them,” Pastrnak said. “It’s real sad, but that’s part of hockey, and it happened.”
Pastrnak has been skating with the rest of the group for several days now, but he still has yet to be cleared for game action. Whether or not Pastrnak gets the green light for either of these last two games, Julien said there will be a decision to make with Opening Night looming on Oct. 8.
“Sometimes, a guy doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase what he can do, and unfortunately for David, that’s the case,” Julien said. “He’s a young player, so for us to keep him here, there’s a lot of things we have to see. He’s not a very big player, so can he handle the strength of this league overall? We know his skill level and skating is good, but he’s going to have to show us that, if he’s able to play in these games.
"If not, then we come to an ever tougher decision to make, so that’s something we’d end up discussing just before we make our final roster decisions with everybody.”
On Wednesday, the Bruins released forwards Ryan Spooner, Justin Florek and Alexander Khokhlachev as well as goaltender Jeremy Smith from Boston’s training camp. That leaves Pastrnak, Simon Gagne, Matt Fraser, Bobby Robins, Craig Cunningham and Jordan Caron vying for a spot up front.
Pastrnak, however, is not focusing on that right now. All he is worried about is making sure his shoulder is healthy. Then, as he said, we’ll see what happens.
“If I get into the game, I will just play my game and try to play for the team,” he said. “I know it’s a little early to talk about this — I don’t even know if i will play — so I can’t talk about this till after the game.”
Smith, who joined camp on Monday and practiced on Pastrnak’s line on Thursday, liked what he saw from the center.
“I’ve been playing with him ever since camp started -- for me, at least," Smith said. "He’s a really nice kid. Great hands, good vision. If he’s not here this year, he’ll definitely be here in the near future, for sure.”
Julien, for one, hopes there is good news to report on Friday morning before Boston travels to Bridgeport, Conn., to face the Islanders.
“I guess the biggest thing we can hope for right now — and I say it for you guys — is that we get to see him play,” Julien said. “I’d like to see him play and see how he handles an NHL game, and hopefully I get the news that we all want sometime today.”