The Boston Bruins (43-13-12, 98 points) can essentially put the Atlantic Division away with a victory tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning (42-20-5, 89 points). This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the sides, and the second one this week. The Bruins took a 2-1 decision in Florida on Tuesday night.
Puck drop is slated for 7:00 pm on NESN, NHL Network and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Moore Replaces Carlo
Brandon Carlo was on the receiving end of an elbow from Florida’s Evgenii Dadonov on Thursday. As a result, the Bruins will not have one of their top four defensemen against the Lightning. Carlo will be replaced in the lineup by veteran John Moore, a frequent healthy scratch.
“He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said regarding Moore. “Would rather be in the lineup than not play, obviously, but he respects our decision and we appreciate that as a staff. Now he gets his opportunity and I’m sure part of him, depending on the length of the injury, wants to be able to stay in the lineup.”
Moore has played in just 22 games this season. He last suited up on February 12th against the Montreal Canadiens. He played just 14:42 that night and had three shots on goal.
Although he hasn’t played much, Moore has been working off and on the ice each and every day to stay ready for this opportunity. He’s pushed himself in case this chance presented itself.
“I can really go out and push myself to get better because those opportunities are not there for you when you are in the lineup,” Moore told reporters. “You don’t have to worry about your energy and being sore for games and stuff like that…I really try and work on things as much as I can while I’m out.”
Long Time, No See
The Bruins and Lightning had gone months without seeing each other. This is their second meeting in less than seven days. Both sides are familiar with each other and both are preparing for what they hope are lengthy playoff runs.
Even though the Bruins have a nice cushion on the Lightning for the divisional crown, they know that they’ll get a strong punch from their elite foe.
“They’re a great team,” said Patrice Bergeron. “They come at you really fast, balanced lines, lots of talent. We’re expecting the same thing we saw in Tampa, which was a hard fought, high tempo game that was very tight.”
That kind of game should help prepare the Bruins for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are only about a month away now. It’s a chance for a team that doesn’t have too much to play for to get even better.
“You want to keep getting better, keep advancing, keep getting those points and pushing those teams that are behind you down,” Bergeron continued.
Tweaking The Forwards
Anders Bjork is struggling to stay in the lineup. Although he played on Thursday in Florida, the forward will sit tonight for the third time in four games. Par Lindholm will return and play center on the fourth line. That will push Sean Kuraly up to the third line against the Lightning.
“It’s just being a little stronger overall,” Cassidy admitted when asked about Bjork. “I thought the Florida game he got knocked around early on. Got better as it went along. And that’s what you’re gonna see, more determined men style of play in the playoffs.”
Bjork isn’t the only young forward struggling to see the ice. Karson Kuhlman, a pre-deadline mainstay in the top six, has frequented the press box as of late. He was assigned to AHL Providence earlier this afternoon as Connor Clifton was activated from the injured reserve.
Clifton will not play tonight despite being activated.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Ondrej Kase
Sean Kuraly – Charlie Coyle – Jake DeBrusk
Joakim Nordstrom – Par Lindholm – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – John Moore
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon
Bruins lines against the Lightning are subject to change. Rask is the confirmed starter, per Cassidy. Moore plays his first game since February 12th, while Carlo is out after that elbow to the head on Thursday. Anders Bjork, Anton Blidh and Connor Clifton are the healthy scratches.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Blake Coleman – Anthony Cirelli – Alex Killorn
Barclay Goodrow – Mitchell Stephens – Tyler Johnson
Patrick Maroon – Cedric Paquette – Yanni Gourde
Victor Hedman – Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev – Kevin Shattenkirk
Braydon Coburn – Zach Bogosian
Lightning lines are subject to change. Vasilevskiy, per Joe Smith, will get the start tonight. The Lightning are dealing with some key injuries ahead of tonight’s matchup with the Bruins. Steven Stamkos (abdomen) is out indefinitely and will miss at least the first round of the playoffs. Ryan McDonagh (lower-body) and Jan Rutta (lower-body) are both also on the IR.