BOSTON — He was a bit overlooked among the half-dozen impressive, impactful rookies in the Bruins’ lineup last season, even though Danton Heinen quietly produced more points than any of the others.
Getting overlooked is one thing. Getting passed over is another.
There’s a chance the latter will happen to Heinen on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, where the Bruins will try to win their fourth straight game and sweep a three-game homestand when they meet the Red Wings (3:05, NESN, WBZ-FM 98.5).
Heinen, who has bounced between the second line — where he spent most of training camp — and different versions of the third line, doesn’t have a point through four games. He has only three shots on goal and has taken a minor penalty in each of the last three games — not exactly what was projected after his 16-goal, 47-point rookie season.
“Obviously, it’s a new year, and you want to get off to a good start,” said the 23-year-old winger. “But for me, personally, it’s not clicking right now.”
Heinen, who settled into a third-line role with center Riley Nash (now a Blue Jacket, via free agency) and veteran David Backes last season, doesn’t blame the lack of consistent linemates for his slow start, although he wouldn’t mind finding a couple.
“It’s been mixed up quite a bit, but no excuses,” said Heinen, who skated with veteran center David Krejci throughout training camp, and played the 2018-19 season opener with Krejci and second-year winger Jake DeBrusk. “You’re playing with great players, whoever you’re playing with. Sometimes there’s not instant chemistry, and it would be nice to try to build some, but I don’t know if that (lack of chemistry) is it or not.”
After two straight games with Backes (now playing center) and right wing Anders Bjork, Heinen’s ice time could be threatened: Ryan Donato, a healthy scratch in Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the Oilers, took some shifts with Backes and Bjork during Friday’s practice, and also moved into Heinen’s spot on the Bruins’ second power-play unit. With head coach Bruce Cassidy saying he’d keep three of Thursday’s four lines intact and that Donato “will probably come in,” Heinen’s spot seems most jeopardized.
“(Heinen’s) fighting it,” said Cassidy, taking particular issue with Heinen getting penalized in three straight games.
“In general, when he had tough stretches last year, he was very reliable, and you could usually count on him to bring his ‘B’ game — be a good defensive player, not hurt you. Right now, he’s taking a lot of stick fouls. … That’s the first thing we have to correct.”
Heinen said he’s not sure he has deserved all the penalties that have been assessed, but he knows he must do more to create shooting opportunities.
“The bigger thing, to me, is the shots,” he said. “Obviously, I want to create more offense. I have to try to get my shot off more than I am now, for sure. It’s definitely frustrating.”
Getting taken out of the lineup would add another layer of frustration, but after seeing Donato, Bjork, Nordstrom and fourth-liner Chris Wagner all scratched for a game so far, Heinen knows his strong rookie season only protects him so long.
“You can’t get comfortable,” Heinen said. “You’ve got to take advantage of the time you get, and right now I’m not doing that.”
Whether it’s Saturday, or at some point during the four-game road trip that begins next week, Cassidy is eager for Heinen to find his game.
“He’s a good player,” the coach said. “We’ve got to get him back to playing well.”
Around the boards
No. 1 center Patrice Bergeron left Friday’s practice slightly early, after taking a deflected shot near the mouth. Cassidy wasn’t sure if Bergeron needed stitches to close a cut. … Tuukka Rask will start in goal against the winless (0-2-2) Wings.
Published at Sat, 13 Oct 2018 02:02:24 +0000