The Boston Bruins’ penalty kill is about to get a much needed boost as defenseman Derek Forbort is on schedule to return possibly on Saturday to the blue line.
This weekend, Head Coach Jim Montgomery said Forbort is “getting closer” to coming back.
Forbort has missed the last 11 games since sustaining an injury to his right middle finger during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 1. He underwent surgery to repair the finger and was projected to miss four to six weeks. Now at the four-week mark in his recovery, it looks like the Bruins’ defense will be fully loaded by this weekend.
“I’d be shocked if he’s not playing by the Colorado game, the first Colorado game,” Montgomery said after Saturday’s practice.
That game against the Colorado Avalanche is home and this Saturday, Dec. 3.
Montgomery has switched up defensive pairings and put guys on their offside since Forbort’s finger injury, but said things on the backend will get “a little more solidified” upon his return. That additionally means the front office has some work to do dealing with the cap and it’s set to be a busy week to see what happens in that regard.
But it is all good news for the Boston Bruins, especially for the penalty kill when Forbort is reactivated.
Forbort was an integral part of the penalty kill before the injury, and last season. He is by nature a stay-at-home defender who sacrifices his body with numerous blocked shots and his presence has been missed out front on the penalty kill. Stanley Cup of Chowder caught up with Forbort this weekend and he said he’s feeling good to go.
“It’s pretty good,” Forbort said about his healing process. “I feel better so hopefully in the next couple of days I’ll be ready to go.”
Prior to the injury on Nov. 1, the defenseman was having himself a great offensive start to the season even though he’s not known for his offensive game.
“It’s the kind of the system Monty has us playing,” he said. “The back side is pretty active and the front defense is getting up in the rush a lot, just trying to play the system. He [Montgomery] does a good job of getting the defense involved offensively.”
He registered one goal and two assists through the first 10 games of this season. He even netted the game-winning goal in the Bruins’ home opener on Oct. 15. That goal broke a tie game midway through the third period. Through 10 games, he has eight shots on net.
He said it was “maybe a little” more to get used to being an active role in offensive plays, but nothing that’s made him completely change his style.
“It’s not like I’m out there dangling in any way,” Forbort joked. “It’s just getting open and reading when there’s a chance to jump in the play.”
In what he does best, Forbort has 18 blocked shots and 27 hits this season. He had five hits and two blocks in just over five minutes of play the game he was injured. The Bruins’ penalty kill has noticeably struggled as of late and there’s been a hole missing without Forbort on the PK. His absence is huge as he blocks many shorthanded shots and does a good job keeping bodies out of the slot.
The penalty kill has gotten the Bruins into a bit of a pickle over the last six games. Since Nov. 13, the Bruins penalty kill is 65.6%, allowing 10 goals on 29 opposing power plays. The Bruins couldn’t recover against the Florida Panthers, but they did come back after Carolina’s two power play goals dug them into a hole.
While the penalty kill needs improvement, the Bruins have repeatedly found ways to pull out wins and play for each other. That’s something that hasn’t been easy for Forbort to watch, he said, as he’d rather be a part of those memories - like the 12-home win record just set - instead of watching from Level 9. But he’s happy with the outcome for his team.
“It’s not fun [being sidelined], especially when the boys are rolling like they are,” Forbort said. “You want to be a part of it. But it’s fun to watch and it’s a great job by the fellas to keep it rolling.”
The Bruins made NHL history with the home win on Nov. 25 against the Carolina Hurricanes to become the first team to open a season with 12 consecutive home wins. Forbort said that was a big goal of the team and Montgomery’s message before the season start.
“It’s something we talked about before the year, how to be tough to play against at home,” Forbort said.
He added, “I guess we kind of took it to the extreme though.”
Forbort might not have played the second half of those home games, but he was a crucial part in the first six wins. He had that game-winning goal in the home opener – where he also had three shots on net. Forbort also had a two-assist game in a 5-1 home win over the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 27.
And to add fuel to the PK fire - in the first 10 games of the season - six of which were at home - he helped the penalty kill to 35 successful kills. They only allowed two goals in that span to be 94.6% accurate.
While he’s missed almost all of November with the Bruins, he’s excited to get back on ice and help the blue line and most importantly, play in front of the fans. The crowd has helped fuel the team with the energy they give back to them each night, which has helped them in some of their wins, the defenseman said.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or what night it is,” Forbort said. “There’s always energy in there, especially when you go on the road and you see the other barns. We are pretty lucky to play at the Garden.”
Again, Forbort is projected to be back in the mix this weekend. Nothing has been confirmed except for Montgomery’s comments. We’ll keep you posted if he “checks all the boxes” this week and who might be moved to make way for cap space in Forbort’s return.