« Halak is scheduled to start, » Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. « He did not skate on the ice today so he’s recovered well.
But that doesn’t mean other changes won’t be coming to the Boston lineup for tonight’s Game 3 with the Lightning.
In fact, the Bruins may take a page out of the Jon Cooper playbook and dress a seventh defenseman.
« We’ll have a game-time decision, » Cassidy said, noting the game-time decision was up front. « We may have to dress seven D tonight, take a forward out. We’ve kind of contemplated that going into the back-to-back. On the second night of the back-to-back, that’s something we’re mulling over. We’ll make a decision by game time. »
It’s unclear who exactly is the game-time decision on the backend, but it’s worth mentioning that Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Sean Kuraly have been among those who have taken multiple maintenance days in recent days. Anders Bjork also played a team-low 10:36 in Game 2, which comes with some natural speculation in a back-to-back.
No matter the potential absence, Cassidy feels confident they have the bodies to plug-and-play if necessary.
« We have lots of extra forwards that have played. [Jack] Studnicka’s played, [Karson] Kuhlman’s played, [Par] Lindholm’s played. So, there’s lots of guys that have been in the lineup. We certainly have 12 capable guys.
But it seems like the idea of an extra body on the backend is what’s most enticing to Cassidy.
« Back-to-back game, some guys it’s a heavier workload. You’re playing [Charlie] McAvoy upward of 25 minutes, » Cassidy acknowledged. « We have some smaller guys, so it’s been a physical series for them. So, save a little wear and tear, put some fresh legs in there. The disadvantage of seven D is finding your rhythm as a defenseman. The second part of that is obviously up front, what if we get an injury to a forward? Now you’re really down to 10, so there can be some risk involved in the playoffs, especially considering the tight games we’ve been in like overtimes. That’s where we have to be careful.
« At the end of the day, one thing that has happened in the past is Connor Clifton has played forward. If he’s in the lineup he’s not unfamiliar with that. It’s not ideal obviously but it is a situation – an emergency situation that, he played some forward in Providence so he could pinch hit up there if something were to happen. »
And talking about the wear-and-tear on the team’s smaller players on the backend, it feels likely that Jeremy Lauzon will step back into the mix for the Bruins. The 6-foot-2 Lauzon brings some snarl that simply wouldn’t come if the Bruins were to add a Kuhlman, Lindholm, or Studnicka to the mix as the team’s 12th forward. Lauzon is also built to win some of the board battles and physical plays the Bruins have almost routinely lost since the second period of Game 1.
« It’s just, what’s the best formula for this particular game? » Cassidy pondered. « That’s why we would consider seven D. The extra legs on the backend, the extra body in the backend might be more beneficial than a 12th forward. »
The Lightning, meanwhile, will remain without Ryan McDonagh for the second straight game, meaning Cooper is likely to stick with his seven defender format, which keeps Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn in the lineup.
Here’s our best stab at the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins (these are obviously subject to change…)
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.
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