The Bruins’ offense, not exactly prolific in the team’s first three wins of the season, was set to face the Los Angeles Kings shorthanded on Saturday night at Crypto.com Arena.
And it was a self-inflicted loss.
B’s coach Jim Montgomery informed reporters in LA after the morning skate that winger Jake DeBrusk was late for a team meeting and that he would be a healthy scratch against the Kings, the B’s toughest opponent thus far in this young season.
“That’s why he’s out of the lineup,” said Montgomery.
This surely is not the way DeBrusk had wanted to start what could be the most important season of his career from a personal standpoint. He is in the final year of a two-year contact that pays him $4 million a season and, in his first crack at unrestricted free agency, he appears to be in a position to take a sizable step up in play.
Last season, he matched a career-high of 27 goals despite missing a month of the season with a broken leg. He’s also become a more complete player in the last couple years, now playing a regular role on the penalty kill unit.
The PK has gone 13-for-13 to start the season, but DeBrusk has not yet been able to get on the scoreboard.
This is not the first time that the 27-year-old DeBrusk has made news off the ice. He had butted heads with former coach Bruce Cassidy off and on throughout his young career and, two seasons ago, his trade request became public. But the B’s held on to him, DeBrusk’s game gained some consistency and he appeared to have turned a corner under Montgomery.
Perhaps this is a one-time blip and it can be put in the rear view mirror quickly, but it bears watching.
While DeBrusk’s scratch made room for Patrick Brown to make his Bruin debut – he skated with John Beecher and Jakub Lauko in the morning skate – while veteran Milan Lucic bumped up to the first line to skate with Pavel Zacha and David Pastrnak.
“I give him credit. He looks really good,” said Montgomery of Lucic. “He’s making plays. He’s holding players accountable for how we want to play on the bench as far as his leadership and his words. And I think he’s looked good skating wise. He’s on top of pucks, he’s winning foot-races, which is a credit to him because he’s come here and he’s assimilated to how we want to play and he’s playing fast.”
Montgomery also used the first half of the back-to-back to give defenseman Ian Mitchell his Bruin debut in Kevin Shattenkirk’s spot.
“He’s played very aggressive. I’ve liked his skating and his puck management and someone who had a really good camp, so we’re excited to see him play,” said Montgomery of Mitchell.