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Pregame Notebook: Beleskey Slated to Return as Bruins Face Coyotes

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — Nearly one week after suffering an undisclosed upper body injury, Matt Beleskey is ready to return to Boston’s lineup.

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien confirmed as much following the team’s morning skate at TD Garden.

“I feel good,” Beleskey said after the skate. “I wouldn’t be coming back if I didn’t. I feel good. It was lucky we had a few days in between games and got some time [to recover].”

But when Beleskey does make his return after missing Boston's last two games, he will not be skating alongside David Krejci and David Pastrnak. Instead, if morning rushes hold, he will skate with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes on the third line.

“For me, it’s a start, and we’ll see how that goes,” Julien said of the line change. “If it doesn’t go, I have to make some adjustments here, and that could be happening all year around. I mean, I know people are used to seeing me with certain lines and sticking with them, but I think that stage — that consistency — is gone right now. It’s not there yet, or it’s gone.

“So like any coach, you adapt to what you have, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”

In Boston’s last game — a 5-3 win over the Islanders in Brooklyn on Oct. 23 — Julien's line combinations were clearly clicking. Brett Connolly, skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, has scored in two straight games while Beleskey has been injured. That bumped Loui Eriksson to David Krejci’s line, which also produced a goal.

For now, while those lines are working, Beleskey will skate with Spooner, a move he welcomes.

“He’s a great playmaker,” Beleskey said. “He played great last game, and I’m looking forward to playing with him.

“[He’s a] good offensive player, [Hayes] is a big guy — puck control guy — so hopefully we can build on the little bit we had going this morning and in practice together the last few days. Hopefully, we can build on that tonight.”

In five games with Boston thus far, Beleskey — who netted a career-high 22 goals last season with Anaheim — has tallied a goal and an assist. Beleskey would not deem his start to this season slow, nor would Julien. The coach simply thinks Beleskey is a player who, like many others, is continuing to adjust to a new system and a new team.

“You’ve got to give guys a chance to fit in,” Julien said. “In my mind, he’s going to be fine.

“We have to give him a chance. It’s not what I see or don’t see; I think it’s just a matter of him fitting in. We know what he’s capable of doing. He’s a very intense player that is gritty and will go to the net and all that stuff, so I think good things are going to come out of him.”

Another Shot at the Coyotes

The last time the Bruins faced the Coyotes, they capped off a two-game road trip with their second win of the season.

It wasn’t easy. They had to dig down for a late comeback in order to compensate for a tough second period.

But they found that resolve and left Arizona with a 5-3 victory.

“I like the way we skated,” Bergeron said. “We were really first on pucks that whole game and even though they gave us a push, we found a way to get that extra goal and keep battling and keep working and not getting discouraged.

“We need some more of that. They’re a good team, they’re a fast-paced team, they have a lot of skill, and we need to be ready to face that tonight.”

Bergeron was the hero of that game in Glendale, netting both of Boston’s third-period goals, the second of which came on the power play with 66 seconds remaining in regulation. The man advantage is clearly where Boston excelled against Arizona: They capitalized on three of their six opportunities.

“We had so many shots,” said Krejci, who netted a first-period power play goal. “I don’t know how many power plays we had, but we had so many shots on net. So when you have the puck, good things happen, especially on the power play, when you have a couple guys in front of the net.

“So we’ll try to do that again tonight, keep shooting the puck.”

The Coyotes posed a challenge for Boston 10 days ago, and they will be a challenge again on Tuesday night. Their 3.0 goals per game rank eighth in the league, and Tuesday night marks the conclusion of a successful five-game road trip and the second leg of a back-to-back. The Coyotes have won their last two games over Ottawa and Toronto, scoring a combined eight goals, and they will look to end their trip on a high note at TD Garden.

“They’re a young team, but they’re a skilled team,” Julien said. “Some of their young players right now are really at the forefront of their team, but then they still have the good leadership from the older guys.

“They have a lot of skill there that can be dangerous because when you’re a young team, you just go out there and you play hard and the proof is just in some of those games that they’ve won — against Toronto last night, against Ottawa. They’re winning road games, they’ve got a decent record, obviously.

“I thought we played a real solid game against them the last time in there, and we need to do that again tonight because if we don’t, we’re going to get the same results as the last two teams they played.”

There are plenty of reasons for the Bruins to believe the Coyotes will be pushing from the get go on Tuesday night. For one, the Coyotes certainly remember how close the last game was between these two teams. And for another, they want to head home happy.

“This is their last game on the road trip, so they want to obviously finish strong, and it’s always a better flight back home if you win,” Krejci said. “We know they’re going to come out really hard, they’re going to be ready, so we have to be ready as well. We have to be ready to outwork them, and if we do, we’re going to have a win.”

Eriksson’s Versatility

Ever since Loui Eriksson arrived in Boston at the beginning of the 2013-14 season, he has been shuffled from line to line.

Early on in his Bruins career, he skated with Bergeron and Marchand. He has skated with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith. He started this year back with Bergeron and Marchand, but according to Tuesday’s rushes, he will suit up alongside Krejci and Pastrnak against the Coyotes.

To Eriksson, shuffling from line to line isn’t a big deal. Perhaps that’s why he is able to do it with relative ease.

“I played with different lines in Dallas, too, and I’m pretty comfortable with it,” Eriksson said. “It’s been the same kind of thing here in Boston. It’s always a challenge, but when you get used to it and you find some chemistry with some guys, it’s always easier.”

Eriksson’s versatility is one of the key elements of his value with the Bruins. He can be a first liner, a second liner and a third liner, he can play on the right or the left, and he has proven he can produce no matter where he is.

“That’s where, again, that guy deserves credit for being that type of a player,” Julien said. “We know early on, he didn’t get the credit he probably deserved, and I think slowly but surely, everyone started to appreciate him a little bit more.”

The last time out against the Islanders, Eriksson was responsible for generating what proved to be the game-winning goal. He won a puck battle behind the Islanders’ net and threw it out front for Pastrnak, who snapped it past Jaroslav Halak.

That game marked his first on that line, and clearly, his learning curve wasn’t too steep. This line is, however, a departure from what the Bruins have traditionally deployed around Krejci. Throughout most of his Bruins career, Krejci has been the skill on a line of size and strength. These days, his line is replete with skill at all three positions.

It is up to those three players to continuing proving that the combination works.

“Krejci is really good with the puck, and Pastrnak, he’s got his speed,” Eriksson said. “It’s only been a few games here, and hopefully we can build on some things and get better. I thought we had a pretty good game the last game. We created chances, and Pasta scored a goal there, so that’s something to build on.

“Hopefully, we can continue playing well and creating chances.”

Talbot Assigned

Forward Max Talbot was the only player missing from Tuesday’s morning skate, and afterward, the Bruins announced that he had been assigned to Providence.

Talbot cleared waivers on Oct. 6 and has served as the healthy scratch in five of Boston’s seven games this season. He was acquired last year at the trade deadline.

Projected Lineup Tuesday vs. Coyotes

Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Brett Connolly

Loui Eriksson — David Krejci — David Pastrnak

Matt Beleskey — Ryan Spooner — Jimmy Hayes

Chris Kelly — Joonas Kemppainen — Tyler Randell

Zdeno Chara — Kevan Miller

Torey Krug — Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow — Colin Miller

Starting Goaltender: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

Scratches: Zac Rinaldo, Zach Trotman

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