Boston center Charlie Coyle, right, has not scored a goal in 27 games for the Bruins. John Minchillo/Associated Press

As Charlie Coyle’s career with the Boston Bruins has evolved over the last two-plus seasons, the notion of moving the right-shot centerman over to wing – a fairly common practice at one point – had become more of a “break glass in case of emergency” proposition.

Coyle had shown that, when his game is clicking, he can be a better player and more valuable to the team as a centerman. But the team has reached the glass-breaking stage of the season.

With just nine games to go in the regular season and Coyle mired in a 27-game goal-less streak going into Tuesday’s rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Coyle remained on the right wing – where he finished Sunday’s 1-0 loss – on a line with center Sean Kuraly and left wing Nick Ritchie. Like fellow pass-first centerman David Krejci, Coyle’s game is not judged solely on his goal totals. But two months without a goal is not acceptable for a player in the first year of a six-year deal worth an average of $5.25 million.

The hope with the move is that this different perspective will unlock whatever has been keeping him from being an effective player, as well as suss out what the best looks are for the third and fourth lines. But time’s a-wasting.

“There’s conversations with players, how their game’s going. We’re trying to help some players who are struggling a little bit to get going so you move them around sometimes. Sometimes it’s at their behest and sometimes it’s just coaches’ decisions,” said Coach Bruce Cassidy.

According to the lines posted by the club for Monday’s practice, Coyle split time with Jake DeBrusk on the right wing, suggesting DeBrusk could be headed for another scratch. The fourth line had Curtis Lazar centering left wing Trent Frederic, who hasn’t played since April 6, while Chris Wagner and Karson Kuhlman took turns on the right side.


Whether it was Coyle who first suggested the move to wing to the coach or vice versa, he sounded fully on-board with the switch. While his current goal-less skid is the longest of his career, Coyle has dealt with his share of droughts.

“The thing I’ve found out is you have to make sure you’re bringing something,” said Coyle. “Maybe you’re getting chances and they’re just not going. But you’ve got to bring something to the table and help your team win. I think when you go back to those basics, when you’re not scoring, that’s what you have to do. And I have to make sure I’m reliable defensively, I’m getting in on the forecheck, I’m being a big body out there, creating space and moving my feet. And those are all things that I can be better at, too.”


Taylor Hall joined the Bruins in a trade earlier this month. He should make an impact on the power play, but hasn’t been able to practice the Bruins systems and the team has struggled. Winslow Townson/Associated Press

THE BRUINS have not scored a power-play goal in their previous six games, an 0-for-13 skid that has dropped the one-time league-leaders to 12th in the NHL.

The problem — at least part of it — has been that the condensed schedule has allowed very few full practice sessions. The team was going to hold one last Wednesday but had to give some players the day off after a few were experiencing adverse effects from the vaccines they received the night before.

But coming off the rest day on Saturday and a day game on Sunday, there’s a chance to have a full practice on Monday in Pittsburgh. Coach Bruce Cassidy welcomes the chance.


“We have every intention of practicing and (the power play) will be one of the highest priorities. The problem when you don’t practice is, Taylor Hall is obviously a good power-play guy, so where does he best fit? Without any practice time, there’s some difficulty there,” said Cassidy. “We’ve tried to stay true to that No. 1 unit. We put Taylor on it for one of the games just for a different look … we’re going to try to move over to his off-side so he has some one-timers with Charlie McAvoy up top, (Craig Smith) and (David Krejci) through the seam. A lot of his good power-play work was done on his strong side elbow kind of coming down hill, like (Auston) Matthews does in Toronto on his strong side with that wrister. We started him there, Krech had been on the other side, so it was really the easiest place for him. But we really haven’t had a lot of opportunity to get him reps. And the other group can revisit some of the issues they’ve had and just get back to basics.

“I think practice is an issue for us. We could sure use it. But I also think we haven’t executed to the level that’s necessary to make plays and score. That has to start first. Five guys have to outwork four, you have to execute well. Then obviously getting your reps in practice is the third thing to me. We should get some of those (Monday).”

Of course, Cassidy probably would have liked to have gotten some in-game practice on Sunday, too. The Bruins received no power plays in their 1-0 loss to the Penguins, with the only penalty in the game called with 1:28 left on a high-sticking call on Patrice Bergeron, back in the lineup after missing one game with an apparent foot injury.

CASSIDY CONCEDED before the game that lefty Jake DeBrusk playing on the right side is not ideal, but that it’s the best option for the team right now. In the 1-0 loss to the Penguins, Cassidy did move DeBrusk back to the left side on a line with center Curtis Lazar and Charlie Coyle moving to right wing. But with the move not bearing fruit, it would not be a surprise if he went right back to the Nick Ritchie-Coyle-DeBrusk combo for Tuesday’s return match.

“It’s where he is now, so hopefully each game he gets more comfortable with it. I don’t know how it will shake out down the road. To me, if he brings the attributes of second effort on pucks, attacking the net, some of those things I don’t think it matters what side he’s on. Where it becomes an issue is taking pucks off the boards, a little bit of D-zone coverage, making sure you stick’s in the right spot,” said Cassidy in his pregame presser.

“There are these little adjustments you have to get used to, little details that would take some time. But I think he’s still probably more effective on the left. But at the end of the day, I think he fits better on the right than Ritchie. That’s how the decision was made and we’ll let it play out for the next little bit and go from there.”


As for Coyle, without a goal in 27 games, Cassidy assumes his confidence has taken a hit.

“Charlie hasn’t scored in a long time, so I’m sure it’s affecting him,” said Cassidy. “He’s not a guy that’s a (David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand) type of scorer, but he’s scored in this league. I’ve got to believe it’s affecting him. He’s done some good things, getting to the net, being a net presence on certain days. But obviously he’s going to need to drive that line if it’s going to have success. … The message to him is just to attack more. The other day (against Buffalo) we trapped some guys, we threw it to the front of the net and he kicked it up top when I think he could have gone to the net, attack himself. So those are things he has to do a little bit more of. We’ve been asking Charlie for that for years, just a little more of an attack mentality.”

WITH JEREMY SWAYMAN working his way into the goaltending mix, an uncomfortable situation could have arisen with the rookie essentially being a third wheel to the two veterans Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Swayman said that could not be further from the truth.

“They’ve been super-supportive,” said Swayman. “Those are two veteran guys in the lock room that I get to look up to and learn from every day. I’m super-grateful for everything they’ve helped me with. … I think at the end of the day, they want what’s best for the team and all three of us are really pushing for each other. I couldn’t ask for much more. I’m really happy with the trio we have right now.”

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