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Karson Kuhlman: Playing to Stay

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The Boston Bruins have won a huge one with a 6-2 beatdown of the Columbus Blue Jackets in their own barn. The most important thing is that the Bruins responded well after dropping three of their last four. Then they clinched the home ice in the first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now, the B’s have to look forward to the postseason.

Looking ahead also means solving the issues the Bruins have with their lineup. Head coach Bruce Cassidy is still trying to find the right places for trade deadline acquisitions Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle. As for now, it seems like they will play together on the third line alongside right-winger Chris Wagner. They combined for an important tally to make it 2-0 late in the first period Tuesday night.

Solving the fourth line will be an issue for Bruce Cassidy with Sean Kuraly out for at least another three weeks. But at least he has found the unexpectedly good winger for David Krejci’s line in Karson Kuhlman. Kuhlman is very strong in his skating and he has done nothing wrong so far with the Bruins.

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In his nine games played with the Bruins, he has gathered three goals and two assists for five points. The 23-year-old is averaging 11:58 ice-time and 53.4 percent in CF% while being plus-five on even-strength. In his rookie season, those are pretty good numbers, especially for a guy who wasn’t expected to be with the Bruins during this season at all.

Danton Heinen was out last night due to an illness, but its almost sure that Heinen will be back in the lineup once he is alright. Whose spot he would take? Probably Kuhlman’s, but that would be a mistake. Heinen should play on the third line with Coyle and Johansson, while Chris Wagner should slide down to take Joakim Nordstrom’s place on the fourth line.

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Wagner has a career season with 12 goals, but all of his goals have come from those blue-collars shifts on the fourth line. There is no reason for the Bruins to keep playing Nordstrom over Kuhlman or Peter Cehlarik, who is already “forgotten” in the AHL. Nordstrom has had one goal and three assists in his last 29 games.

On the other side, Karson Kuhlman has made a pleasant impact. He scored a goal in his NHL debut in San Jose. Then he was sent to the AHL. After his call-up back, Kuhlman scored a goal in Florida. Last night, he had 14:10 of ice time, two points and 15-8 Corsi advantage during the even-strength ice time. There should be no point for the Bruins to not give Kuhlman a further look.

In the series against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins will need their offense clicking early and often. The Bruins have the third-best defense in the NHL for a reason, but they will need to get past Toronto by exploiting their defensive woes. At this point, favoring Nordstrom over Kuhlman doesn’t make much sense.

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