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Pastrnak Gets Green Light for NHL Preseason Action

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON - It may have taken longer than anticipated, but David Pastrnak will get his opportunity.

Pastrnak is expected to play in Friday night's preseason game against the Islanders in Bridgeport, Conn., after being cleared by team doctors.

The forward tweaked his shoulder during just the second on-ice day of training camp, and had to sit on the sidelines as other young prospects received their chances to showcase themselves to the Bruins' brass.

"He's got the green light," said Head Coach Claude Julien, prior to Pastrnak and the Bruins' traveling squad making the three-hour bus ride to Bridgeport.

Pastrnak has been back on the ice skating for a week and a half, and working with Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides. He's ready to test his abilities against players at the next level.

"I'm excited, it's going to be a good experience for me," he smiled to a group of reporters gathered around him in the Bruins’ locker room.

Since being drafted 25th overall in June, Pastrnak has been on a series of steps, and this will be yet another continuation of that.

General Manager Peter Chiarelli has always stressed the progression for the skilled young forward, first with development camp, then rookie camp and playing against peers, followed by Boston's main camp and eventually, playing against NHL-level players.

The latter - finally suiting up in NHL action, albeit in the preseason - is sinking in for Pastrnak.

"I didn't have time to think about it, you know? I just got the message this morning that I'm going to play. Probably I'm going to think on the trip there about it," he said, alluding to the three hours he'll enjoy on the bus to Bridgeport, with his mind likely turning to the opportunity that awaits him.

"I just I have to take it like its a normal game and enjoy it, because you never know when it's going to be last game for you."

Pastrnak isn’t the only one excited.

“I mean, there's a player who we know has got a lot of skills, he's had great success at the World Juniors and that,” said Julien. “You know, you watch him in practice and you see his speed, skill level, hockey sense - it's a guy that you are excited to see in a position where hopefully he can showcase all of that stuff, so I'm excited to watch him tonight, no doubt.”

If the young forward can translate his game to the next level, he still has a chance of sticking with Boston. It could be for the rest of the preseason, or his nine-game window at the start of the regular season, or even full-time.

“Nothing's been ruled out at this point, and I'm being very honest here. We haven't made a decision either way,” said Julien. “Like I said, we see the potential but yet, you know, we also have to be realistic. He is an 18-year-old, we've got to see how he performs and how he reacts and everything else, so we haven't ruled out anything.”

“He's got as much of a chance of sticking here as anybody else. I guess watching him and trying to make an educated decision after it's all said and done is what we'll have to do.”

Pastrnak isn’t feeling the pressure, though.

“That never happened before for me, so I can't tell you from experience. That's going to be a new experience and again, I will try just to enjoy the game,” he said. “I just have to play my game.”

“I’m just going to try to do my best and enjoy the game and we'll see what happens after that. I will play like it's going to be my last game and I'm going to leave everything [out there].”

After Friday night, just one preseason game remains, back in Boston on Saturday at TD Garden against Detroit.

“Let's go one game at a time with him, I think that's the right way to do it,” said Julien. “Not the cautious way to do it or anything like that, but that's the right way to do it.”

“Again, I haven't seen him play - he’s played with the rookies but he's been with us for one practice early on and then he just started with us again, so we'll give him a chance to show what he can do here tonight and evaluate him and make a decision moving forward from there.”

There will be outside factors influencing the decision-making, like the performances of the other players competing for spots, salary cap management, waiver requirements for players, and the overall chemistry of the team.

“We evaluate players on what makes us the best team possible, and sometimes it's not the best players that make the best team,” Julien said. “It's the best combination of players.”

No matter what happens, Pastrnak knows he’s made more strides in the past four months than he could ever imagine.

“It’s not my decision, you know? I'm just trying to do my best,” he said. “I'm just trying to do my best and focus to my game and my practices.”

“Of course I hope I can play here, and I want to stay here as long as I can.”

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