Boston is hoping defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is back in the lineup this week after being limited to five games so far this season. Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

 

The storyline of Matt Grzelcyk being an undersized defenseman in the NHL is nothing new. So when he suffers a couple of early-season injuries, some believe his 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame is to blame.

That’s not the case. Yes, it’s been a challenge for him to stay in the lineup at times, but he’s working on a new approach that should help moving forward.

“It’s just a little tough luck for him out of the gate,” Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy said.

Grzelcyk has been limited to five games this season due to injuries, and since he’s been given more opportunity in the wake of Torey Krug’s exit from Boston, some have questioned whether or not Grzelcyk is ready for more minutes.

“We have to manage his competitiveness and talk to him about putting himself in bad spots,” Cassidy said. “Players never want to show a lack of courage, right? So they’re always going to go in there and get a puck, and Grizz falls into that category.”

If Grzelcyk does return on Wednesday against the Rangers, he’ll be paired with Brandon Carlo. Grzelcyk had been running the top power-play unit before he was injured, and during his absence, Charlie McAvoy filled that void very well, so how that is constructed moving forward remains to be seen. Grzelcyk’s return also means Connor Clifton could be the odd man out.

Grzelcyk was impacted with no preseason games, but Cassidy believes it takes the smaller, quicker players less time to reach optimal levels to compete in the NHL. Grzelcyk also understands he sometimes needs to play with a different mindset, and he’s still learning how to make those adjustments to avoid those thundering checks from an opposing forechecker.

“Something I take pride in is defending well for my size. I have to defend a little bit differently than most other guys,” he said. “I rely on my skating and quickness.”

Jake DeBrusk has missed the last five games due to a lower-body injury and now says he feels 100 percent and is ready to go.

Even though he has spent the majority of his NHL career on David Krejci’s wing, DeBrusk is also versatile enough to move around the lineup. Since David Pastrnak was not ready to start the season while he continued to rehab from hip surgery, DeBrusk played on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. DeBrusk has always played both wings, but he’s more comfortable on the left.

At this point, he only wants to be back in the lineup. He’s expected to play the left side, with Charlie Coyle in the middle and Anders Bjork on the right against the Rangers.

MAPLE LEAFS: The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without Wayne Simmonds until mid-March. The team announced Monday that the bruising winger is set to miss six weeks after suffering a broken wrist in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

Simmonds, 32, scored twice in the game but took a clearing attempt off his left arm in the third period. The injury was looked at by a trainer on the bench before Simmonds headed to the locker room for more treatment.

The Toronto native, who signed a one-year, $1.5-million contract in free agency to play in his hometown with the Leafs looking to add grit and leadership, failed to register a point in the first half-dozen games of the abbreviated schedule but scored five times in his last six outings.

STARS: Anton Khudobin was back at practice with the Dallas Stars on Monday, a day after their starting goaltender wasn’t in uniform for a game as discipline for being late to a weekend practice.

Khudobin said he was late to practice Saturday after not sleeping well throughout the night, and then waking up late when he didn’t hear his alarm. He was held out of the main portion of that practice and wasn’t on the bench for Sunday’s 2-1 overtime loss at home to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Unfortunately that happened. That’s not really a big deal,” Khudobin said Monday. “I talked to the coaches. All fine, all settled, so I’m back to normal.”

Khudobin told Coach Rick Bowness it would never happen again.

“It’s over. We’ve dealt with it, we move on,” Bowness said. “That’s yesterday’s news.”

Rookie Jake Oettinger got his third start Sunday, and made 33 saves in his first loss. Landon Bow was called up from the taxi squad as the backup.

MONDAY’S GAMES

BLUE JACKETS 3, HURRICANES 2: Jack Roslovic scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Joonas Korpisalo had 22 saves as Columbus beat visiting Carolina.

Scott Harrington and Cam Atkinson also scored for the Blue Jackets, who weren’t sharp for much of the night but still got their second win in three games. With the score tied 2-2, Roslovic split two defenders and beat Alex Nedeljkovic with a backhand with 4:36 left.

Nino Niederreiter and Brock McGinn scored, and Nedeljkovic had 19 stops in his first start of the season as the Hurricanes lost for the third time in 10 games.

MAPLE LEAFS 3, CANUCKS 1: Auston Matthews and Alexander Kerfoot scored in an 11-second span in the third period as Toronto won at home against Vancouver.

Matthews’ goal proved to be the winner and extended his career-best goal streak to eight games. He also has a 10-game points streak. Morgan Rielly also scored for Toronto. Frederik Andersen made 31 saves as the Maple Leafs completed a three-game sweep of struggling Vancouver. Mitch Marner added an assist, extending his point streak to eight games.

Elias Pettersson scored for Vancouver (6-10-0), which lost in regulation for the fifth straight game and closed out its road trip 1-5-0. Braden Holtby stopped 16 shots for the Canucks.

The teams play six more times in the NHL’s abbreviated season, with the next meetings set for March 4 and 6 in Vancouver.

ISLANDERS 2, RANGERS 0: Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin scored 2:05 apart in the third period to help Semyon Varlamov and the Islanders beat the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Varlamov made 30 saves for his third shutout this season – second against the Rangers – as the Islanders won their second consecutive game. Islanders Coach Barry Trotz earned his 850th victory, passing Ken Hitchcock for third place on the NHL’s career list.

Igor Shesterkin stopped 28 shots, but the Rangers’ four-game point streak ended.

OILERS 3, SENATORS 1: Tyler Ennis scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and goaltender Mike Smith made 27 saves in his season debut as visiting Edmonton beat Ottawa.

Ennis beat Matt Murray with a low shot on a 2-on-1 for his first goal of the season after Ottawa was caught on a line change at 6:09.

Josh Archibald scored into the empty net with 1:10 remaining after Connor McDavid won the puck in his own end. The assist extended McDavid’s points streak to 10 games.

LIGHTNING 4, PREDATORS 1: Anthony Cirelli scored two goals for Tampa Bay, and the Lightning won in Nashville for their fifth straight victory.

The defending Stanley Cup champs extended the NHL’s longest winning streak even with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy getting his first night off this season. Curtis McElhinney started in net and made 22 saves.

Blake Coleman and Steven Stamkos each had empty-net goals in the final 98 seconds.

 


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