(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
Having only played ten games at the beginning of the season before going on injured reserve due to a crack in his foot, David Pastrnak has not played with the Boston Bruins since October 31, 2015. He was sent to Providence on December 19, for a conditioning stint with their AHL affiliate. He was then recalled on December 28, so that he could be loaned to the Czech National Junior team to compete in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.
While in Finland competing at World Juniors, he sustained an injury to his finger, which some assumed was the reason he was reassigned to the Providence Bruins on Monday, January 4.
General Manager Don Sweeney addressed the media in Boston about Pastrnak, and many of the questions directed at him seemed to be looking for a sign that the 19-year-old winger’s injury in Finland was the reason for sending him to Providence. Perhaps they were hoping to point a finger at Sweeney in their columns for his decision to let Pastrnak participate in the tournament in the first place.
As Sweeney stressed Tuesday morning, the injury to his finger did not keep him from playing during the tournament and it is not expected to keep him from playing now that he has returned. But he hasn’t truly played much since coming back from his much more serious foot injury and as such, it would seem to make sense to get him some additional time in Providence so that he can continue to improve his confidence.
The Brad Marchand suspension certainly has complicated player movement for the Bruins, and this was also addressed when discussing what could and couldn’t be done with Pastrnak, especially with Joonas Kemppainen coming off injured reserve on Tuesday as well.
“[Marchand’s suspension]’s complicated it from the get go, there’s no question,” Sweeney said. “It doesn’t allow for roster flexibility because he takes up a spot, and you have to deal with it. Nobody’s happy about it, but you have to deal with it, and we’ll do so accordingly.”
The Bruins’ efforts Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals were much better than Friday’s Winter Classic debacle, but Sweeney will have some hard decisions to make going forward, as the team looks to a five-game road trip.
“I’m going to re-evaluate after tonight’s game,” Sweeney elaborated before the Caps game. “Again, a lot of it’s performance based, where our own roster here is, and then [Marchand] comes back for the Ottawa game—he’ll miss one more—so we’re just sort of looking to see where our club is, first and foremost, and [Pastrnak] will factor into that going forward.”
Pastrnak proved last season that he can play in the NHL, but it may be prudent to give him a little time to build on the confidence he has regained, reacquaint himself with the Bruins systems more completely, and just reinforce his game by spending some time in Providence. It certainly doesn’t mean he won’t ever be brought back to Boston this season.
His time with the Czech National Junior team has certainly helped him in building his skills and stamina as well as aiding in his confidence. The teen managed one goal and three assists in the four games he played. But roster moves will be necessary to bring Pastrnak back to Boston and that requires some forethought and planning that exceeds the immediacy of a single game.