The Boston Bruins (27-9-12, 66 points) return home following a pair of losses in Philadelphia and Columbus. Tonight, the Bruins get set to host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins (29-12-5, 63 points) at TD Garden. This is the first game the Bruins will play without goaltender Tuukka Rask, who was injured on Tuesday in Columbus.
It is the second of three meetings between the sides this season. The Bruins knocked off the Penguins 6-4 on November 4th at TD Garden. Puck drop is at 7:00 pm on NESN, ESPN+ and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
The Boston Bruins will not have their top goalie in Tuukka Rask tonight when they take on the Penguins. They likely won’t have him until after the All-Star break in fact. Rask was injured just 1:12 into Tuesday’s game when Emil Bemstrom clipped him in the head with an elbow. The sneakily dirty play ended Rask’s night. The Bruins never responded after that.
“He’s concussed. He got elbowed in the head,” Bruce Cassidy told the club’s official website postgame. “He’ll probably go into the protocol – at least that’s what I was told. Maybe it’s not as bad as they first thought. I guess we’ll have a better evaluation [on Wednesday]. That’s what I was originally told. Maybe when he gets home and he feels better, maybe they jumped the gun a little bit.”
Rask was placed on injured reserve earlier this morning with a concussion. Replacing him on the roster is Dan Vladar, who will serve as the backup to Jaroslav Halak while Rask is on the shelf. There is no timetable for his return, but the Bruins only have three games remaining before the All-Star break.
One thing that caught the eye of fans and media alike following Tuesday’s game? The lack of a physical response from the Bruins. Bemstrom was never forced to answer for the elbow that knocked Rask from the contest. Cassidy doesn’t exactly have an issue with that, either.
“I don’t know if anybody saw it [initially],” Cassidy said of the play. “Brandon’s kind of bumping with him on his pants, but certainly didn’t affect his elbow. Should our guys have had a better response? I think there could have been, yeah. But I don’t know if they saw it in real time.”
By the time the Bruins had realized what happened, it was too late in their minds to respond.
“It was pointed out after the first period that our goaltender got bumped,” Cassidy continued. “Listen, it’s a little bit late then. You can’t take the law into your own hands. You can certainly address it with the player on the ice if you felt it was inappropriate. I think some of our guys did that. But we had to get back to playing.”
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they never got back into a game in which they were shutout 3-0. They are now 0-1-1 on the season against the Blue Jackets.
The Bruins responded by waiving forward Brett Ritchie, one of the players brought in to provide grit and send those needed messages. Ritchie cleared waivers this afternoon and was assigned to AHL Providence. The Bruins will have some new look lines tonight as a result.
Sullivan Thriving In Steel City
Mike Sullivan, a Marshfield native, returns to his home state tonight. Sullivan coached the Providence Bruins during the 2002-03 season, then coach two seasons with the NHL club. After a lengthy stint as an assistant coach, Sullivan was promoted from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2015-16 season. He’s been leading the Penguins ever since then.
It doesn’t seem like a long time, but Sullivan has survived while fellow veteran coaches like Joel Quenneville, Gerard Gallant, Peter DeBoer and Todd McLellan have lost their jobs. For his part, Sullivan understands that this business is all about results.
“It’s a reality of how competitive the business is,” Sullivan told our sister site Pittsburgh Hockey Now. “There’s pressure to win in every city. It just seems in today’s game, there’s an elevated form of pressure on everybody that’s involved in the business – whether it be managers, scouts, coaches, players. I think that’s the nature of the business and how it’s evolved.”
A lot of coaches lose the room over time, leading to their dismissal. Sullivan still very much has a grip on the veteran leadership group of the Penguins.
“It’s a team thing,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “Coach and players have to be all in together. The message can be as good as (can be, but) if the players don’t want to do it or they don’t buy into it, usually it’s not going to go well.
“I think it’s just the fact that we have good chemistry with our coaching staff. They make us understand why we’re playing this way. They show us the success that we’ve got. I think that’s why we believe in it and we believe in what Sully is bringing to us.”
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork
Danton Heinen – Par Lindholm – Karson Kuhlman
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – John Moore
Bruins lines are subject to change. The lines are based off of morning skate, where David Krejci did not take the ice. Anton Blidh skated with the main group, but is not yet ready to return to action from shoulder surgery. Kuhlman will play his first NHL games since October 19th as the Bruins juggle up their lines. He has three points in four AHL games this month (2 g, 1 a). David Backes and Steven Kampfer are the scratches.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Jared McCann – Sidney Crosby – Dominik Simon
Dominik Kahun – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust
Alex Galchenyuk – Andrew Agozzino – Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese – Teddy Blueger – Brandon Tanev
Jack Johnson – Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson – John Marino
Juuso Riikola – Chad Ruhwedel
Penguins lines are subject to change. Crosby played his first game since November 9th two nights ago against the Minnesota Wild and recorded four points (1 g, 3 a). The Penguins are currently without Justin Schultz (lower-body), Jake Guentzel (shoulder), Brian Dumoulin (ankle) and Nick Bjugstad (abdomen).
For more on the Penguins, check out our sister site Pittsburgh Hockey Now.