Lines. Lines lines lines lines. It seems like every game this year, the Bruins have either tinkered with their lines during the game or have done so in the morning skate, just to see what happens.
With the news that Chris Kelly will miss up to 8 months with a broken femur, those lines are going to be doing some more shuffling. But what are they going to look like?
5v5, Kelly has spent the most TOI with Jimmy Hayes, Ryan Spooner, Zac Rinaldo, Joonas Kemppainen and Tyler Randell (in that order). Lately, however, it seems Kelly has spent more time on the fourth line, with Hayes and Matt Beleskey riding alongside Spooner.
Kelly's injury leaves that fourth line in a bit of a state of flux right now. Prior to the injury, last night's lines were:
Right now, the easiest thing to do is probably to slot Tyler Randell in Kelly's place. Randell has had several good showings for the Bruins thus far, and is the best fit for the fourth line role.
However, things get interesting whenever David Pastrnak is ready to return. Presumably, he'll retake his place on Krejci's wing, leaving Khokhlachev as the odd-man out.
Does Khokhlachev end up back in Providence after that? Yeah, probably. But he presents an interesting option for the Bruins. He could center the fourth line, play on Kemppainen's wing or force someone else down the depth chart if the Bruins want to find a place for him.
But who? Beleskey isn't going to the fourth line. Hayes has been one of the Bruins' most productive players thus far. Eriksson, Connolly, etc. aren't being relegated to fourth line duty.
The other option: go young on the fourth line. Kemppainen has been fairly responsible in his own end thus far. Take Khokhlachev and put him on Kemppainen's right wing, then give Frank Vatrano a call. The 21-year-old has been tearing it up in Providence, and while his run is probably unsustainable, it might not hurt to give him a look.
He's a left shot, meaning he could slot in on Kemppainen's other wing. A line of Vatrano-Kemppainen-Khokhlachev would probably give Claude Julien nightmares, but could be fun to watch.
Is this realistic? Nah. In fact, there's a 95% chance we just end up seeing Max Talbot called back up to be the extra forward or to platoon with Randell. Rinaldo-Kemppainen-Randell/Talbot isn't the worst fourth line, but it could be better.
The bigger problem: Kelly was second among Bruins forwards in shorthanded TOI, playing about 50 seconds less than Patrice Bergeron. Kelly's injury leaves a void in what was already a pretty rough penalty kill. Who steps up? Spooner's quickness could be an asset on the PK. Loui Eriksson will likely shoulder a bigger chunk of minutes. Rinaldo may be called upon as well.
What does it all boil down to? Here's what I think we'll see when Pastrnak is ready:
But here's what I'd like to see them try:
What do you think?