If the Boston Bruins are going to give forward David Pastrnak a chance to succeed in his first stint in the NHL, they couldn't do better by the player than putting him on a line with center Patrice Bergeron.
After a couple days of Pastrnak practicing on right wing with Bergeron and left wing Brad Marchand, it looks like that's where coach Claude Julien will keep the 2014 first-round pick in an effort to bring out the 18-year-old's best talents. That line should start together when the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets meet Friday at TD Garden.
There were no morning skates because of a Boston Celtics matinee.
In the past, Marchand and current Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin have been moved to Bergeron's line early in their careers to better learn how to integrate their offensive skills into an NHL-caliber two-way game.
"[Bergeron's] a pretty reliable guy. And I know this year it's so uncharacteristic where he is in the plus/minus compared to where he's been his whole career," Julien said. "And so basically it's just one of those situations where right now we've had a hard time getting consistency in our team to start to with. So it's been hard to get consistency in the lines. But again, to his credit, you put a guy like [Pastrnak] on [Bergeron's] line, there's going to be a reliable guy that's going to help him grow as well. He was that age too when he started in Boston. He had somebody help him along the way, so he's certainly capable of doing that now."
Pastrnak made his NHL debut Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He started the night with his linemates from Providence of the American Hockey League, Jordan Caron and Alexander Khokhlachev. By the third period, Julien was giving Pastrnak shifts with other forwards, including Bergeron. Pastrnak skated 10 shifts for 7:53. Caron and Khokhlachev were returned to Providence this week.
A dynamic offensive player, Pastrnak could provide a spark for the Bruins, who start play Friday tied for 20th at 2.48 goals per game. Pastrnak said that with Providence, in his first season playing in North America after playing in the Swedish second division, he's had to learn the best time to make a simple play or try to do something more. Pastrnak had five goals and 18 points in 17 games with Providence.
Bergeron thinks Pastrnak can still be a fit on the line with Marchand.
"I think he's got the offensive instinct to make the smart play and the good play, and I think you just try to read off of that," Bergeron said. "And I think that's how chemistry needs to be built in by reading off each other and it might not happen overnight. But that being said, he definitely has got the hockey IQ to make the good plays and the right plays. So I'm not really worried about if he's going to do an extra play because I think he's definitely smart enough to make the right play."
The Jets, who have won two in a row, have a decision to make in goal. Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson split the first two games of the current road trip. If Hutchinson plays, it'll be another chance to beat the organization that drafted him in the third round in 2008.
Hutchinson earned his first NHL win against the Bruins in April.
"Every time you get a chance to play a former organization, you get a little more excited," Hutchinson told the Winnipeg Sun. "It motivates you ever harder to get that win. If I get the game, it would definitely be special."
Here are the projected lineups:
Andrew Ladd – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane – Mathieu Perreault – Dustin Byfuglien
Chris Thorburn – Mark Scheifele – Michael Frolik
Anthony Peluso – Jim Slater – Matt Halischuk
Grant Clitsome – Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart – Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy – Paul Postma
Injured: Tobias Enstrom (lower body)
Suspended: Adam Lowry
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Milan Lucic – Carl Soderberg – Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Simon Gagne
Matt Fraser – Chris Kelly – Reilly Smith
Dennis Seidenberg – Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski – Kevan Miller
Joe Morrow – Dougie Hamilton
Scratched: Seth Griffith
Injured: Zdeno Chara (knee), David Krejci (undisclosed), Adam McQuaid (thumb), David Warsofsky (groin)
Status update: Lowry is suspended for this game for boarding Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta on Wednesday. It is a one-game suspension. Perreault missed the last game but skated in an optional practice on Thursday. … Kelly practiced two days in a row, so he should be back in after missing the Bruins past two games.
Who's hot: Little has a three-game goal streak. Hutchinson has won four of his past five decisions.