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Boston Bruins Will Start Halak, May Use Seven Defensemen In Game 3

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As of now, the plan is for Boston Bruins goalie Jaro Halak to remain between the pipes tonight in Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning after making 36 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2 Tuesday night. 

“We have a couple game time – certainly one game-time decision up front,” Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy replied in a Zoom media call Wednesday afternoon when asked if Halak would get the start. “He did not skate on the ice today so he’s recovered well.”

Prior to Game 2, Cassidy had acknowledged rookie Dan Vladar could be an option in net for the Bruins in Game 3, but hinted that might only be if the Bruins had gone up 2-0 in the series instead of coming into Game 3 tied at one game apiece.

Halak is 4-2 with a 2.50 GAA and .916 save percentage since taking over for Tuukka Rask prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series the Bruins won in five games over the Carolina Hurricanes.

As for that decision up front that Cassidy referenced? The Boston Bruins bench boss and Jack Adams Award finalist said there’s a solid chance he will dress seven defensemen in Game 3. However, unlike the Lightning who did so in Game 2 due to defenseman Ryan McDonagh being out and will again in Game 3, Cassidy isn’t going with an extra defenseman due to injury. 

“Back-to-back game, some guys it’s a heavier workload,” Cassidy pointed out. “You’re playing [Charlie] McAvoy upward of 25 minutes. Just go give – we have some smaller guys that 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.”

One saving grace for the Bruins in such a situation is that rookie defenseman Connor Clifton has played forward before.  

“At the end of the day, one thing that has happened in the past is Connor Clifton has played forward,” Cassidy said. “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.”

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Cassidy did reserve the right to change his mind and go with 12 forwards but said that as of now, he feels the situation dictates seven defensemen.

“We have lots of extra forwards that have played,” Cassidy said. “[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, it’s just, what’s the best formula for this particular game. That’s why we would consider seven D, the extra legs on the back end, the extra body in the back end might be more beneficial than a twelfth forward.”

With 20 years of experience (SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, ESPNBoston, NESN, NHL.com, etc.) covering the Bruins, the NHL, NCAA and junior hockey and more, Jimmy Murphy’s hockey black book is full of Hall of Famers, current players, coaches, management, scouts and a wide array of hockey media personalities that have lived in and around this great game. For 17 of his 20 years as a hockey and sports reporter, Murph covered the Bruins on essentially a daily basis covering their victorious 2011 Stanley Cup run and their 2013 run to the Final as well. Murphy has hosted national and local radio shows and podcasts and also has experience in TV as well.

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