When looking at the injury report for the Boston Bruins, most people won’t spend too much time pausing on the name Sean Kuraly when going down the list of injured players. After all, the 26-year-old has just eight goals and 21 points on the season as the team’s fourth-line LW — hardly a key figure as they close in on the playoffs. However, Kuraly, who will be out a month after undergoing hand surgery, is a critical player to the team’s playoff hopes.
The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa (subscription required) writes that the combination of Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Noel Acciari have become head coach Bruce Cassidy’s second-favorite line, which had received the second-most minutes in 5-on-5 play. The top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have played 421:22 minutes of 5-on-5 time together, while the Kuraly-Wagner-Acciari line are second on the team with 401:55 of playing time. Cassidy often plays that fourth line against the other teams’ top lines, which includes the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top line of Zach Hyman, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.
With a significant matchup coming up with Toronto in the first-round of the playoffs, the loss of Kuraly could radically affect that fourth line’s play against Toronto’s top line. Regardless of how Cassidy replaces the fourth line, it’s unlikely he’ll match it up with Toronto’s top line now, so that will complicate Boston’s plans for the immediate future.
- Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby reports that Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, who has been out since Feb. 25 with a back injury, was sighted on the ice Sunday. The 28-year-old blueliner was working out after Maple Leafs’ practice with team skills coach Mike Ellis, but there remains no timeline for his return. The team could use him back as they have dropped five of their last seven games without him as well as fellow defenseman Travis Dermott, who could be back soon.
- The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reports that Columbus Blue Jackets’ new goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has an appointment Monday with the embassy in Bern, Switzerland to get a visa and hopes to join the Blue Jackets’ roster at some point this week. Merzlikins, who has been playing in the Swiss National League for the past six seasons, signed his entry-level contract and depending on the roster moves that Columbus makes in goal, could be a candidate to challenge for playing time as soon as next season. Merzlikins finished this year with a 2.44 GAA and a .921 save percentage in 43 appearances in the NLA.