So if tonight’s win over the New York Islanders was an audition to determine which Bruins players get to stay in the lineup when Chris Kelly joins the team Friday night in Ottawa, Kelly would wind up getting scratched.
It seemed like every Bruins forward contributed to the team’s 6-3 win over the Isles except Kelly, who was stuck in Canada because of visa issues.
Now comes one of the hardest decisions of the season for head coach Claude Julien, as the Bruins will have 13 available forwards for their game with the Senators. The Bruins didn’t relinquish a second-round pick to scratch Kelly.
Winger Daniel Paille might be the top candidate to sit. He has been a healthy scratch already 27 times this season. But he had points in three straight games entering tonight, and his screen helped Gregory Campbell light the lamp in the win. Paille’s speed has been a fine complement to the grinding style of Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
It wouldn’t be a popular decision, but against Ottawa Julien could sit Thornton. The Boston tough guy has skated in all 58 games this year and has scored a career-high eight goals. He has become so much more than just a fighter for the Bruins, on and off the ice, but the Bruins could give him a well-earned night off against the Sens (35 fighting majors to Boston’s 55), who just traded Jarkko Ruutu and might not have team fighting leader Matt Carkner because of injury.
To sit rookie Tyler Seguin at this point wouldn’t be fair. Two games as a healthy scratch last week obviously showed the speedster what he needed to do better, and he has become more engaged since getting back in the lineup. If Kelly’s at center, then Seguin’s at wing, and with his renewed confidence he might be able to find some room to use his wheels and add a dynamic the Bruins’ offense has lacked all season with him trying to fit in.
Blake Wheeler finally snapped his 15-game goal drought. The score wasn’t pretty, but maybe he’s going to turn things around — and he can’t do it if he’s in the press box. Nathan Horton missed the net four times in his 15:00 of ice time vs. the Isles and finished the night with just one assist. He has scored just twice in his last 16 games. Julien’s not likely to move someone from the first line to the sidelines, especially in light of the coach’s comments that he knows Horton is a guy that has to be encouraged often.
Had the Bruins gotten Kelly in time to face the Isles with the three-game losing streak intact, Julien might’ve done something drastic. Coming off a win, he’ll probably just go the safe route and scratch Paille.