On Sunday the Bruins will head to Toronto, the city they’ll call home for however long it will take to complete the remainder of their 2019-20 campaign.
They’ll do so without David Pastrnak nor Ondrej Kase skating in one full practice with the team.
While Pastrnak—and Nick Ritchie who missed three straight practices including Saturday’s session— are expected to travel north with the team, Kase’s travel plans are a bit more cloudy.
“Pastrnak and Ritchie I believe will be traveling. Kase I’m not sure. I guess we’ll get confirmation on that [on Sunday]. That’s my understanding. We all get one last test today and hopefully we get a good result tomorrow and can head on the plane,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said Saturday following the Bruins final practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
“Stay healthy. Spend some quality time with your family or the people that are important to you. Stay away from people that you haven’t been in regular contact with. Continue to social distance and mask up.”
Pastrnak and Kase have only practiced once since the NHL began Phase 3, skating in a limited capacity with a small group on July 15th.
With just over one week until the Bruins drop the puck for their first of three round-robin games, having Pastrnak and Kase missing from two weeks worth of practices is less than ideal, especially for a Bruins team that finished atop the regular season standings.
“When we had the day that camp was starting and we knew that some players were going to have to quarantine when they got here, you'd kind of hoped they would have gotten here [to Boston] a little earlier,” Bruins President Cam Neely said earlier this week about the late arrivals to Boston by both Pastrnak and Kase.
“But we really didn't have any say in that. That was really left up to the players. Obviously with what has played out and transpired, you would have hoped that some different decisions were made. But in the long run, I don't know if it's going to affect us once we get into Toronto. I think we'll be fine."
In the absence of Pastrnak and Kase, the Bruins have given both Jack Studnicka and Anders Bjork long looks on the right side of the Bruins top two lines.
Cassidy indicated Saturday the team will need to cut two forwards before heading to Toronto on Sunday, but it doesn’t seem like Bjork or Studnicka have anything to worry about.
Although Cassidy never got the chance to see the full puzzle thanks to the absence of Pastrnak and Kase, the Bruins bench boss is confident in his team, regardless of what his lineup will look like.
“We scripted it out as best we could with the assumption that everyone would be here. Obviously, that didn't happen, we missed some players..We did get a lot of scrimmaging in five-on-five, we tried to build as much of that as we could, some special teams. I guess as a coach you're going out of here thinking we got two weeks, we took care of our details in every zone, the video, got some special teams, but we're missing players that we expect to play for us for some big chunks of time and some didn't even join us,” said Cassidy.
“I like where our conditioning is at, we need to get better obviously, it's only been two weeks, but I think it's trending very well. We all have a singular focus and goal, that's to win the Cup. I think that's been evident in our guys when they've come to the rink."
Once the NHL released their return-to-play plan, the first goal ironed out was simple: get to Toronto healthy.
The Bruins aren’t quite there, yet.