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In second stint with Bruins, Danton Heinen ascends from tryout deal to top-line duty

Danton Heinen played in his 476th NHL game Thursday night, 283 of those while wearing a Bruins sweater.Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff

Danton Heinen has gone from the outside to the inner circle with the Bruins this season.

Signed to a professional tryout contract prior to training camp, the versatile veteran winger is now winging it with the likes of David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha on the top line.

On his way to his current spot, Heinen has made stops on all four lines as well as being a regular penalty killer. He’s been a bargain with a $775,000 price tag, the NHL veteran minimum, on his way to 13 goals, 28 points, and a plus-7.

“You never know in this game, right?” Heinen said Thursday before the Bruins’ 5-2 loss to the Rangers at TD Garden. “There’s ups, there’s downs.


Following two good seasons with the Penguins, Heinen found himself without a lot of options last summer, in large part because so many teams were snug against the salary cap.

The Bruins were particularly tight and filled their vacancies with a flurry of bargain veterans on one-year deals, including James van Riemsdyk, Milan Lucic, Kevin Shattenkirk, and — eventually — Heinen.

Heinen has fit nicely with Pastrnak and Zacha, the trio meshing well as 200-foot players.

“I feel like it’s going pretty well. I’m just trying to build every game and get more comfortable with them, and I just listen to them and see what they want,” Heinen said. “Pasta had three last game, so that’s a good thing seeing him put the puck in the net. I’m just trying to put the puck in the net anyway I can.”

Originally a Bruins draft pick in 2014, Heinen played some with Pastrnak during his first tour of duty in town. The talent was always evident, he said, but he notices changes, too.

“You see as a guy how much he’s grown as a leader in the room,” said Heinen, who was dealt to the Ducks in 2020 before landing with the Penguins. “But I think on the ice, too, he’s grown into himself. He was a kid when he came into the league. People don’t realize how hard he plays and how many battles he wins to create that offense and how hard he is on pucks. I think that gets looked over sometimes.”


Danton Heinen collected his first career hat trick in a January win over the Canadiens at TD Garden.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

In turn, Pastrnak has enjoyed watching the player Heinen has become.

“I would say he’s the same player, but he just has more experience,” Pastrnak said. “He’s been on some great teams and with some world class players, so [he] gained experience and learned from those guys. Experience plays a big part of it once you get a little older and understand the game a little differently. He’s a big part of our team.”

Heinen said he “loves it” in Boston but hasn’t paid much attention to what’s in store beyond this season.

“I kind of block out that stuff,” said Heinen, when asked about a possible contract extension. “Just play and have fun.”

Maroon takes to ice

Pat Maroon, who had back surgery Feb. 7, took his first twirl Thursday morning as he progresses in his rehab.

“Big Rig’s on his way back,” said coach Jim Montgomery, who had no definitive timeline for Maroon’s Bruins debut other than to classify him as “week to week.”

Even though he’s not practicing with the club, Montgomery keeps a regular dialogue going with Maroon.


“We’ve talked about his role and what my expectations are and where he’s comfortable,” Montgomery said. “[We’ve] talked about those things, but besides that, it’s mostly about how he’s tracking along to get healthy.”

Maroon was acquired from the Wild ahead of the trade deadline earlier this month.

Van Riemsdyk remains out

Van Riemsdyk remained out of the lineup as he continues to build back strength and endurance sapped by a recent illness. He missed two contests before returning for his 1,000th career game Saturday. “He’s just nursing some things,” Montgomery said. “To be honest … it was his 1,000th game, probably didn’t do him any service playing him in that game.” … Mason Lohrei and Parker Wotherspoon were the healthy scratches on the blue line … The Bruins were decked out in their Centennial sweaters for the final time this season … Goalie Michael DiPietro was signed to a one-year, two-way contract extension through the 2024-25 season. The 24-year-old DiPietro is 17-8-0-4 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .917 save percentage with AHL Providence this season … Song of the night: “Hey Ya,” by the Black Eyed Peas.

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him @globejimmcbride.