David Pastrnak inching closer to season debut
With 11 goals in their last two games, the need for David Pastrnak to return to the Bruins lineup is a little less urgent than it was five days ago.
Regardless, the Bruins got some good news on Monday as Pastrnak traded in his red non-contact jersey for a white practice jersey, splitting reps with Jack Studnicka on the Bruins second line.
“Skated in a normal jersey today, so he took contact which was the next step in his progression. This week we will see how he handles that and then if it goes well and wakes up tomorrow or the next day—depending on how much contact he needs and doesn’t feel any after effects, we’ll consider putting him in the lineup,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“I don’t suspect he’ll in any of these home games [Tuesday and Thursday]. He’ll probably travel with us [to Washington] and we will see from there.”
Cassidy also admitted that once Pastrnak is given the green light to return, he will be back in his familiar spot to the right of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the Bruins top line.
Pastrnak continues to recover from hip surgery that took place on Sept. 16. Pastrnak is ahead of his original prognosis of a mid-February return.
“A lot of excitement, how I said it’s been a long road and it’s been a long time. I’m itching to get out there and today was a good day,” said Pastrnak. “It was a full practice with the boys and practiced with somebody besides myself. Really exciting to hopefully get more good days like today upcoming.”
September’s surgery was the first of Pastrnak’s young career. Although Pastrnak is happy with his choice to go under the knife, the recovery from the surgery was difficult to deal with.
“The hardest part was obviously the first two months. I’m really an outgoing kid, every offseason I mix in everything with the workout, the ice hockey and we do all the sports like tennis, soccer as preparation for the season instead of running around in circles, I play soccer instead,” Pastrnak said.
“I’m very outgoing, and a very sportish person and the first two months were very hard because I couldn’t do anything, had to follow some program and really work myself every single week step-by-step. That was really difficult for me.”
The hip issue is something that dates back to last season and impacted Pastrnak throughout the Bruins time in Toronto’s playoff bubble.
“It was bothering me, but there’s no excuses for it. It’s part of hockey and I’m so happy I did it. It’s wonderful skating on the ice now pain-free and I’m so excited coming back now and joining the guys and being around with them every day and helping the team win,” said Pastrnak. “I am really really happy I done it, obviously I had a lot of decisions to make in the offseason and couldn’t be happier I done it.”
If Pastrnak is able to return to game action following the Bruins pair of home contests with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he will make his season debut in Washington against Zdeno Chara and the Washington Capitals.
“It’ll be weird, I don’t know what other word to say other than battling against Z is going to be weird,” said Pastrnak.
“He was such a great leader here and personally helped me grow so much as a person and as a player. I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me. On the other end, it’s a business and it’s the hockey we live in. Definitely going to be weird, but how I said, I am so appreciative that I was able to be on his team and learn from him every single day, I can’t thank him enough.”
Pastrnak was well on his way to his first 50-goal season last year, before COVID-19 shutdown the remainder of the Bruins regular season. Pastrnak finished the season with 48 goals in 70 games, tying Alex Ovechkin for the lead league in goals.
If Pastrnak returns to action on Saturday and doesn’t miss any more regular season games, he’ll play in 49 of the Bruins 56 games.
Is that enough time for Pastrnak to hit the 50-goal mark?
“It’ll be tough, would have to be a goal a game assuming he gets in there really quick--probably more than a goal a game, that’s a tough ask,” said Cassidy. “I don’t think anybody’s done that since Gretzky in ’92 maybe, maybe Brett Hull one year. For me, I think that’s going to be a challenge.”
As challenging as it would be for Pastrnak, and fun to watch on the other side of things. Given his current situation, scoring goals is not of much concern to Pastrnak at the moment.
“That’s my least problem right now. Obviously going through a long recovery, my main focus is just to get back out there and get back into the games ASAP,” said Pastrnak. “I’m not really thinking about scoring goals right now, pretty much just trying to get back out there.”