Brad Marchand, left, shown with linemate Patrice Bergeron, is confident the top line will find its groove. “When you’ve been off for (four-plus) months it’s going to take you a couple of games to get it back,” Marchand said. Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

 

The Bruins went back to practice on Monday and, in many respects, back to the drawing board after their first six periods of hockey have yielded just two goals from the normally explosive group.

The Bruins are battling not only the rust that’s accumulated from four-plus months of inaction, but some choppy summertime ice conditions that have contributed to the slowdown of high-end skill teams like the Penguins and Maple Leafs, as well as the Bruins.

They certainly want to get their game back, but the Bruins also need to acknowledge the conditions with which they’re battling. Coach Bruce Cassidy doesn’t want to make too much of the ice conditions, but he’s not ignoring them, either.

“I expected that this time of year with that many strong, powerful skaters on the ice over the course of 12 hours is going to do some damage, no matter how good the ice crew is,” said Cassidy. “It’s just something where you have to have a mindset going in. After playing a few games you hope it changes for us on Wednesday (against Tampa).'”

The top line’s struggles in the loss to the Flyers were front and center. It was tough going for the Patrice Bergeron line, with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and the pinpoint precision on which the combo revolves is not there yet.

“We’re just going to have to, instead of forcing plays like we tend to do a lot – we try to make plays out of nothing – we’re going to have to get in deep a little more and work things down low and try to make our plays in deep,” said Marchand. “We do tend to want to be more of a rush line and create opportunities off the rush. But with the ice the way it is, it’s just too tough right now.

“We’re not necessarily concerned about he way the last couple of games have gone. When you’ve been off for (four-plus) months it’s going to take you a couple of games to get it back. But when we do, they’re going to come in bunches.”

Bergeron, who participated in all full team practices in Phase 3 and 4 so far, was given a maintenance day on Monday. Cassidy said he’s fine and will be back on the ice on Tuesday.

JUST A COUGH

Any signs of illness in our COVID-19 times are cause for a concern, but sometimes a cough is just a cough.

That is what has been ailing Tuukka Rask since he last played on Thursday in the exhibition game against Columbus. Protocols being what they are, his situation had to be taken seriously but Rask was able to return to practice on Monday.

Rask said he should be ready for Wednesday’s game against the Lightning.

“At least I tested negative. I’m still coughing but I’m not too worried about that. As long as the tests came back negative, that’s all I care about. People have coughs but I guess in this day and age, anything like that could be alarming,” said Rask.

TINKERING WITH THE LINES

Cassidy reiterated that he believes Nick Ritchie, who missed a half dozen practices at the end of the Phase 3 and start of Phase 4, will be able to play on Wednesday but Ondrej Kase will most likely have to wait until Sunday’s game against the Capitals.

It was Kase’s first practice with the team on Monday and Cassidy tinkered with the lines a bit, trying the Ritchie-David Krejci-Kase line that was together at the time of the pause. Karson Kuhlman also saw some time as the right wing on that line.
That also moved Jake DeBrusk down to the right wing on Charlie Coyle’s line with Anders Bjork on the left side.

“(DeBrusk) has had some decent games with Coyle,” said Cassidy. “I liked Anders on the left side (Sunday) better than the right wing the other night. For whatever reason, he finds the puck a little more off the wing. I could always flip him with Jake. Obviously Kase is a guy we want to see there. And we’re hoping before the playoffs do start we can get at least one game out of him there and see how it goes.”

Cassidy, however, doesn’t sound like he’s married to any combo in his middle six just yet.

“Those guys are all good players – DeBrusk, Ritchie, Bjork – so wherever they end up, we just expect them to take care of themselves right now,” said Cassidy. “We’re two games in, an exhibition and a round robin game, after a long pause so it’s more about every individual has to get their game together and then the team stuff will come.”

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