Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said that Jaroslav Halak will start in Wednesday’s Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s also tinkering with the idea of playing seven defensemen and taking out a forward for this second game of a back-to-back. That will be a game-time decision.
“(Halak) did not skate on the ice today, so he’s recovered well,” said Cassidy. “We’ve contemplated on (seven D) going into the back-to-back or on the second of the back-to-back. That’s something we’re mulling over and we’ll make a decision by game-time.”
“Back-to-back games, for some it’s a heavier workload. You’re playing (Charlie) McAvoy upwards of 25 minutes and it’s just to give a few of the smaller guys… it’s been a physical series for them. So save a little wear and tear and get some fresh legs in there,” said Cassidy. “The disadvantage of seven D is finding your rhythm as a defenseman. And then the second part of that is obviously up front. 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 all the tight games we’ve been in with overtime. So that’s where we’ve got to be careful. One thing that has happened in the past is that Connor Clifton has played forward so if he’s in the lineup, he’s not unfamiliar with that. It’s not ideal, but in an emergency situation, he played some forward in Providence so he can pinch-hit up there if something were to happen.”
Unless there’s an undisclosed injury, the choice of the seventh defenseman would be between Jeremy Lauzon, who brings size and the ability to play both sides, and John Moore, who is an excellent skater. The guess here on the forward coming out would be Anders Bjork but, again, there could also be an undisclosed injury up front as well.
Like every team, the B’s have brought a handful of extra forwards and defensemen but the longer this goes, it seems less likely we’d see a Zach Senyshyn or a Trent Frederic. More is needed from the guys who’ve been in the lineup, said Cassidy.
“Readiness, they skate probably five, six days a week here. They’re probably going to have a day off a week like everybody else. They’re preparing as best they can with the small group. Sometimes they skate with the big group. So, we’re trying to blend that so they do stay sharp. At the end of the day, they’re going to be behind simply because they haven’t played any playoff hockey in their career in the National Hockey League, for one. So, it’s always an eye-opener. we’re watching Bjork go through that. And secondly, now they haven’t played any really live hockey. It would be a big ask. We’re not that far down the road yet,” said Cassidy. “What we do need is better from the middle of our group. That second layer of our group that have been in the league and who could be the future of the Boston Bruins. We’re not going to try to predict what’s going to happen down the road but these are guys that can really make a name for themselves in this playoff. We’ve had a decade-long production from our top end and our core.
“They show up to play every night. What we’re looking for a little bit tonight in a back-to-back, it’s become a bit of a young legs’ playoff, if you look around. We need some of that tonight. That was a bit of the message today. It’s time for those guys to step up and pull the veteran core along. And what I mean is energy wise. Obviously, Brad Marchand to me was the best player on the ice. He doesn’t need any help. He’s fine. He’s going to show up and play. Some of the other guys that we rely on were brought in, it’s time for them to pull a little harder on the rope in the game today and we’ll see if that materializes.”
Meanwhile, Tampa coach Jon Cooper said that key defenseman Ryan McDonagh is again not available. He declined to say whether Andrei Vasilevskiy or Curtis McElhinney will get the start.
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