3 Bruins at Risk of Losing Roster Spot When Injured Players Return

As each day in October passes by, the closer we get to November and the countdown will be on as to when Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy return to the Boston Bruins lineup. As both players continue to work their way back from offseason surgeries, one other player, Matt Grzelcyk, has already made it back from his recovery from surgery last spring.

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It is expected that the Bruins will be back to nearly full strength around American Thanksgiving and once Marchand and McAvoy are back in the lineup full-time, coach Jim Montgomery will have some roster decisions to make. Boston is off to a surprisingly good start to the 2022-23 season as they are getting some unexpected performances. There are also players that are struggling and could find their spot on the roster in trouble. Here are three players that need to have a strong couple of weeks ahead of the Black and Gold getting healthy.

Trent Frederic

When Marchand returns, left wing will have some depth with Taylor Hall, Pavel Zacha, and Nick Foligno behind Marchand. Truth be told, all of them have performed much better than Trent Frederic has. Hall and Zacha are not going to have Frederic pass them on the depth chart, but Foligno has been a pleasant surprise this season and provides more than the former University of Wisconsin standout.

Trent Frederic, Boston Bruins
Trent Frederic, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Montgomery is giving Frederic every opportunity to find his spot in the lineup. He put Frederic, Craig Smith, and Charlie Coyle back together against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 22 and the Dallas Stars on Oct. 25 after they became a key third line in the second half of last season. This is going to be a big next couple of weeks for Frederic to put a stamp on his spot in the lineup.

Mike Reilly

It is widely known that the Bruins have an abundance of left-shot defensemen and they have even more now that Grzelcyk is back in the lineup. When McAvoy returns, it should give Montgomery more options on the right side as Brandon Carlo returned to the lineup against the Stars following an upper-body injury (from ‘Bruins notebook: Brandon Carlo returns, Jakub Zboril sits,’ Boston Herald, Oct. 25, 2022). Jakub Zboril and Mike Reilly have been playing both sides on defense early in the season with a lack of depth on the right side, but the unit as a whole is becoming crowded and general manager (GM) Don Sweeney and Montgomery are going to have some decisions to make.

Mike Reilly Boston Bruins
Mike Reilly, Boston Bruins (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Who stays in the lineup is anyone’s guess, but Reilly is certainly a candidate to find himself as the odd-man out. He was in that position last season after the Bruins acquired Hampus Lindholm at the trade deadline in March. Early on Reilly has benefitted from Montgomery’s new system that gives the defensemen more offensive freedom, but he was the victim of two poor decisions in the season opener against the Washington Capitals that led to a pair of goals. 

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The Bruins would like to get the Reilly they got following the trade deadline in 2021 that provided an offensive spark from the left side from the blue line, but also made smart decisions in the course of a game. If he can’t go back to being that type of player, he might find himself as the odd man out once again.

Craig Smith

If there is one player on the roster that has had a slow start and the Bruins need to have a quick turnaround, it’s Smith. Frustrating is a word that can be used to describe him as everyone knows the talent is there for him to make an offensive impact, but consistency has been an issue.

Craig Smith Boston Bruins
Craig Smith, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Boston was hoping to get the Nashville Predator Smith when they signed him to a three-year, $9.3 million free-agent contract in October 2020. In five of his nine seasons with the Predators, he scored at least 20 goals, but he has yet to reach that mark with the Black and Gold. He has yet to find the back of the net this season in five games and collected his point with an assist in the Bruins’ overtime win over the Wild, in a game he returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games.

Lack of opportunities is not an issue for Smith either as he has averaged In his two seasons with the Bruins he has averaged 159 shots a game and that includes 132 in the 56-game shortened 2020-21 season. This season in five games, he’s only landed six shots on the net, but he has fired many more toward the goal, only to run into some unfortunate puck luck. In the final year of his contract, the Bruins will be able to ride him for so long this season without him producing.

There are certainly going to be some decisions to be made when the Bruins are fully healthy. It’s a good situation to have and Montgomery will welcome it which means he has more depth. However, unless someone is moved through a trade by Sweeney, some veterans are going to be upset about being a healthy scratch. This is why the next couple of weeks are going to be big for some fringe players who look to keep a roster spot when Marchand and McAvoy return. Wednesday, Montgomery said that he would not be surprised to Marchand in the lineup before Thanksgiving, which would be a nice addition to the top six.

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