To say Jeremy Lauzon had nailed down his spot on the Bruins’ third defense pair might be pushing it a bit. He had played just 19 games with Boston this year and has all of 35 under his belt.
But it appears the four-month layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic did very little to deter him from the goal he set of establishing himself as a regular NHL defenseman. Since the Phase 3 NHL training camp began almost two weeks ago, Lauzon has been manning the right side on the third pair with Matt Grzelcyk, and coach Bruce Cassidy has shown little inclination to change that just yet.
“For everybody it was kind of disappointing to put a pause on the season. The team was rolling and I was starting to feel really comfortable on that right side with Grizz,” said Lauzon. “But everyone’s in the same boat, on the same page. I feel really good right now. It’s been like three and a half months off and I’m just happy to be back now. I think slowly me and Grizz are starting to get some chemistry back and our rhythm has been pretty good lately. I’m just trying to work hard and trying to get back to where my game was at the pause.”
Lauzon’s main competition for the spot is Connor Clifton and veteran John Moore. The left-shot Moore, though not as comfortable playing the off side as Lauzon, and the righty Clifton were battling through injuries before the pause, but are now on equal health footing with Lauzon, who has yet to cede any ground in the competition.
“Right now Cliffy and Mooresie are both back at 100% and they’re both really good players. I think we have eight (defensemen) that can really play in the league, so I came here with the mentality that I want to win my spot back and that’s what I try to do every day, work hard on the ice and off the ice and letting the coach know that I’m ready for it,” said Lauzon.
Both Lauzon and Grzelcyk have the good fortune of being healthy and have been on the right side of the testing protocols, not missing a day so far.
“It’s been really helpful,” said Lauzon. “Just to be able to be back together and find that chemistry and rhythm has been huge for us the last couple of days. But since I’ve been up, I think our chemistry has been good. We’re two different kind of players but together I think we play really good together. I complement him and he does too with me. I’m just looking forward to starting games and get back at it.”
Clifton, who looked like a real find in 2018-19, admittedly did not play with same kind of swagger for much of 2019-20. But the New Jersey native is feeling healthy now and is ready to do battle.
“I feel good. I’m just trying to get better each day and just trying to control what I can control, my mentality and how I prepare for each practice and I’m just going to keep going with that,” said Clifton.
“Definitely looking back on the season — obviously it’s a long time ago — I feel like I had a tough time finding my confidence, especially early on. Obviously, quarantine hit and, yeah, I’m on the outside looking in right now. But a lot happens in the playoffs and I’m going to be ready when called upon.” …
The B’s did some special teams work for the first time in this short training camp on Thursday, with David Krejci taking David Pastrnak‘s spot in the left circle and Jake DeBrusk regaining the net-front position on the first unit. Jack Studnicka played the bumper position on the second unit with Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork …
McAvoy and Joakim Nordstrom, who missed Tuesday’s practice (Wednesday was an off day), returned to the ice on Thursday …
The B’s plan to hold another afternoon practice (3 p.m.) on Friday.