Austin Czarnik is used to top-line duties. The 25-year-old leads Providence with 42 points in 38 games this season and anchors the P-Bruins’ lead trio.
But when Czarnik was recalled to Boston for Saturday night’s showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he knew he would have to make an impact in a different way. Playing instead in a fourth-line role, Czarnik was tasked with creating energy and momentum each time he hit the ice.
The Detroit native delivered, forming a solid unit with Frank Vatrano and Sean Kuraly. Czarnik did not land a shot on goal in just over nine minutes of ice time, but did pick up an assist on Torey Krug’s power-play tally.
“I think he was good. Lots of energy, on the puck, made a play on the power play, which we’re used to seeing him make. So, I thought that whole line did their job pretty well,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “No complaints…and that’s what we need.”
While playing in a slightly different role, Czarnik felt comfortable alongside Kuraly, his former teammate at Miami (Ohio), and Vatrano, his former linemate in Providence. While with the P-Bruins, Czarnik and Vatrano were a lethal combination that combined for 56 goals during the 2015-16 campaign.
“I played with Sean in college for three years and Frank in Providence and a little bit here so I know what type of players they are and what they like to do,” said Czarnik, who will be back in the lineup on Tuesday night in his hometown against the Red Wings. “I think we are just one step off from getting a lot of chances, but it was a good game for us…it was exciting, just create energy out there was my goal and our line did a good job of forcing a lot of turnovers.”
Czarnik was placed on Boston’s second power-play unit against the Maple Leafs, which proved to be a sound decision when he delivered a feed to Krug, who ripped home a one-timer to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead in the second period.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming into [Saturday night], so it was nice to get that [opportunity] – and we scored on one of them, so it was perfect,” said Czarnik, who has two assists in seven games with Boston this season.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound forward’s previous two stints with the big club this season came prior to the team’s 25-4-4 run. This time around, he said, there is a noticeably different feel within the group.
“We were struggling there a bit more then,” said Czarnik. “But now the team is playing together and they are doing everything they need to do every night. So, it’s a fun time to be a part of it.”
The Bruins will be making their second visit to Detroit on Tuesday night. Boston’s first trip to Little Caesars Arena resulted in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory, during which Brad Marchand notched the winner in the extra session.
Detroit has posted a 4-5-1 record over its last 10 games and is currently 7 points out of the East’s second wild-card spot. The Rangers, who the Bruins will visit on Wednesday, have dropped two straight and have just three wins in their last 10.
As a result, Boston is expecting two teams with an added level of urgency.
“I think we’ve tried to always worry about ourselves first. I think we understand that the majority of the teams that we’re gonna be playing are in a little bit more of a fight than we are,” said Cassidy. “We all want our points…they are a little more desperate than we are – we have to be cognizant of that, but at the same time play our game.
“There’s too many games to get caught up every night in what the other team is doing. We always address what they do well, where we can attack them and go from there and try not to worry about the standings too much, to be perfectly honest. There’s no easy games in this league.”
Marchand’s Return Near
Brad Marchand will be back in the lineup on this trip, with the winger serving the final game of his five-game suspension for elbowing on Tuesday in Detroit. Boston’s leading scorer will be eligible to return on Wednesday against the Rangers.
“Time goes by slow when you’re out, but it’s been a lot of fun to watch the guys play the way they have,” said Marchand, whose teammates have posted a 3-1-0 record in his absence. “They’re playing very well. Looking forward to getting back. It’s fun to watch, but it’s not fun to be out. It just shows how good of a team we have. But you hate to miss time and be out. It will be great to be back be in the room.”
Noel Acciari (lower-body), Anders Bjork (upper-body), and Kevan Miller (upper-body) all missed practice. Bjork will not travel with the team on the road trip, while Miller and Acciari “are unlikely to travel [with the team] but could join us,” according to Cassidy.
Acciari, who has missed the last four games, has been skating on his own. Miller and Bjork have not yet resumed any on-ice activities.
Cassidy said that Tuukka Rask would be in net on Tuesday night in Detroit, while Anton Khudobin is expected to get the call on Wednesday in New York.