Bruins Reward DeBrusk With First-Line Opportunity

The Boston Bruins are making some lineup changes heading into Thursday night’s tilt against the Seattle Kraken. With Brad Marchand returning to action after missing the team’s previous six games due to a suspension, Patrice Bergeron will once again play with his usual running-mate as he has for the past decade. A new face joining the two, however, will be Jake DeBrusk who will see his return to the top-six with this lineup change.

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk is getting a look alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the Boston Bruins top line Thursday against the Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“Sometimes it’s tough when you go in with two guys that are, arguably, Hall of Famers. You get a little nervous,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think that’s what’s happened over the years with some younger guys. Jake’s a little older now. We had a good discussion about that – is that something that would take him away from his game or help build his game.”

Keeping an open dialogue with DeBrusk about where he fits in the lineup and whether or not giving him this opportunity alongside Bergeron and Marchand would be helpful or harmful is a wise decision from Cassidy. It’s also worth noting that the Bruins’ head coach is also keeping an open mind about this move and knows that there are a lot of factors at play when creating chemistry.

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“He should have a say in this. We had that conversation. He’d like to give it a go and see where it leads. Sometimes chemistry happens, sometimes it doesn’t but that’s how we’re gonna try it for now.”

The return of Marchand to the lineup is obviously a good thing for the Bruins, but it also led to questions about how the team was going to handle the lineup moving forward. In Marchand’s absence, the Bruins had run with Bergeron centering a line that had David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall on his wings. The two wingers have found great chemistry since being paired together this season and keeping them together seemed to be a priority for Cassidy; a smart one, at that.

Related: Bruins Have Lineup Options With Marchand Returning

Another interesting line that has been developing well has been the trio of Charlie Coyle, Trent Frederic and Craig Smith. Though Smith could have been slotted back onto the top line alongside Bergeron and Marchand, Cassidy clearly decided that changing something that isn’t broken would likely be more counter-productive than productive.

For this reason, DeBrusk became the logical choice to play on the team’s top line as the Bruins continue experimenting and tinkering with combinations to better prepare themselves for unexpected absences from the lineup – be it due to injury, suspension or otherwise. The team has to be ready for anything, especially if the number of injuries they’ve had in recent years is anything to go off of.

DeBrusk Earned This First Line Opportunity

DeBrusk has been playing well as of late, too, and he’s certainly earned a look alongside the Bruins’ two best forwards. After being demoted to the team’s fourth line, DeBrusk had a fire lit beneath him and would score a goal in each of the following two games as a result. This would bring his totals up to nine goals and 17 points through 45 games. Getting time in the top six should be helpful for his point production as a whole.

“We used him against good lines, and he was really good with that line. That part of it we’re not worried about. When he’s on, he’s a good all-around player. That will be the ask,” said Cassidy. “Defensively, Jake’s habits have been more consistent in terms of stick position in D-zone, just remind him about those and correct when we need to, like everybody.”

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk has earned an opportunity to play on the Boston Bruins’ first line (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This isn’t the first time DeBrusk will get a look alongside Bergeron and Marchand as he was given a look with them last season as well. In a relatively small sample size, the trio played very well together. In the past, DeBrusk’s play has faltered when playing on his off-wing; this wasn’t the case when played on the top line, though. Instead, the line flourished, meaning that DeBrusk’s inclusion on the line didn’t hurt the team in any way.

Rounding out the rest of the lines, Erik Haula will return to a familiar spot as he centers the Pastrnak and Hall duo while the fourth line will consist of Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek and Curtis Lazar from left to right on the team’s fourth line. Will this be the team’s final forward lineup change this season? That seems unlikely. For now, though, it’s the lineup they’re going with.