Coming into camp for the 2019-2020 season, not much was being said about the health of fourth-line left wing Joakim Nordstrom. As camp progressed, news trickled out that the Swede had spent much of the summer in a walking boot while recovering from a foot injury. General manager Don Sweeney revealed Tuesday that Nordstrom had also suffered another injury during training camp.
Nordstrom practiced sparingly during the preseason, and when he was on the ice, it was in a non-contact jersey. On Tuesday, Sweeney confirmed during a media day press conference that Nordstrom would in fact not be available for the start of the season and would be placed on injured reserve.
As a result, it is now clear that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will need to do some early-season tinkering with a fourth line that proved to be one of the best in the National Hockey League during the 2018-2019 campaign.
With Sean Kuraly, whether at his most-familiar center position or left wing, and Chris Wagner, a fourth-line stalwart in his first season in Boston, likely to fill two of the spots on the line, the depth Sweeney acquired during the offseason will be called into play at the outset of the new season.
With second-line centerman David Krejci nursing a lower body injury himself, one that leaves his availability for opening night Oct. 3 in Dallas uncertain, free agent acquisition Par Lindholm, one candidate to fill in for Nordstrom, has been taking Krejci’s place in practice. However, Krejci participated fully in Wednesday’s practice before the team left for Texas and was deemed a game-time decision by Cassidy.
With Krejci returning to a full-contact status, Lindholm shared time in practice Wednesday on Kuraly’s right wing with Brett Ritchie, the other free agent the Bruins acquired for depth in July. Wagner moving to the left side in the absence of Nordstrom.
If and when Krejci is able to return, Lindholm gives the team another solid option for the fourth line. Like Kuraly, Lindholm can play center or on the wing, and he provides a style of play similar to that of Nordstrom. Hopefully that means Kuraly and Wagner will not take long to develop a level of comfort with Lindholm as a newly minted linemate.
On many teams, news of an injured fourth liner would barely be a blip in the news cycle. However, Cassidy has come to rely on his bottom six, and the fourth line in particular, to not only grind out the hard minutes needed to give the team’s stars a breather, but also to provide a unique energy and a straightforward drive-to-the-net mentality.
The so-called energy line was called on to start numerous games during the Bruins’ hot streak in February and throughout the playoffs and provided several clutch goals in key situations. The fourth line saw increased minutes in the playoffs, as well, although Nordstrom and then-Bruin Noel Acciari did not come close to the 15-plus minutes Kuraly was contributing by the end of the postseason.
For his part, Ritchie is a big body who can provide an element to the line that may have been lost somewhat when hard-hitting Acciari chose to sign with the Florida Panthers in July.
Photo credit: Stuart Cahill, Boston Herald