The Boston Bruins (4-1-1, 9 pts) will finish off a very successful four-game homestand at TD Garden with a Thursday night tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-1, 9 pts) that will conclude their two-game series with a regular 7 PM ET (NESN, ATTSN-PT, 98.5 the Sports Hub) puck drop.
The Bruins will look to pick up a perfect eight out of a possible eight points out of the TD Garden homestand after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers, and then taking a 3-2 overtime win against the Penguins on Tuesday night. The Bruins have scored 13 goals over their last seven full periods of hockey after struggling with the offense right out of the gate and are 3-1 in four extra session games thus far this season already.
Jaroslav Halak will get the nod between the pipes in a regularly scheduled start for the Bruins tonight after Tuukka Rask (lower body) was banged up in Tuesday’s overtime win. Rask did not practice with the Bruins on Wednesday morning. Dan Vladar will serve as the backup goalie on Thursday as the Bruins wanted to give Rask the full day off ahead of being slated to start this weekend against the Washington Capitals.
Things are getting familiar for the Bruins
The Major League Baseball-style schedule for the Bruins continues with multi-game series against opponents as the Bruins conclude a couple of two-game series at home against the Flyers and Penguins. There has been an embracing of the COVID-19 influenced schedule when NHL players are on the road where they can settle into cities for a couple days, even if there isn’t really much, they can do in the other East Division cities while on the road this season.
It’s certainly been an adjustment for the Boston Bruins players, but it’s also undoubtedly ratcheted up the competitiveness and the nastiness when there is carryover from one game to the next when things get a little nasty on the ice. Overall, though, like everything else this season it’s another weird, little alteration for the NHL guys.
“It’s a little weird. It’s nice for our video guys and our coaches because they can see and break down the first game and make adjustments for the second game,” said B’s right winger Chris Wagner. “It is what it is. I don’t know. Another weird thing in this day and age and I think we’re getting used to it.
Winger depth getting tested
The Bruins came out of Tuesday night’s hard-fought win with a couple of injuries, and as a result Jake DeBrusk (lower body) won’t play Thursday night against the Penguins after taking a hard hip-check from Sidney Crosby. Instead, Craig Smith will push up to the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand as David Pastrnak is still not quite ready to play, and the Bruins may load up with Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle on David Krejci’s wings.
“You’ve got to be ready in case the lines get mixed up,” said fourth liner Chris Wagner. “It’s going to be different, line changes and all that. For me you’ve just got to be on your toes and be ready when your number is called.”
That would leave the Bruins with a fourth line of Trent Frederic, Par Lindholm and Jack Studnicka that may not get used all that much during the game, and a de facto third line of Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner that may see elevated ice time. The Bruins fourth line has been excellent to start the year defensively for the Black and Gold and has earned any added ice time they do see as a result of the injuries.
On the back end, Matt Grzelcyk (lower body) is expected to make a return to the lineup after missing the last two games and Connor Clifton would come out of the lineup if the puck-mover is indeed healthy enough to play.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had a big news day on Wednesday as GM Jim Rutherford announced his immediate resignation running the day-to-day hockey operations for the Penguins. Patrik Allvin takes over as an interim GM “with Mario Lemieux as a back-up” while the Penguins go on a general manager search for the coveted hockey position, and many familiar names like Tom Fitzgerald, Peter Chiarelli and John Ferguson Jr. have already been named as potential candidates for the primo gig.
“His legacy is the two Stanley Cup banners in the rafters,” Penguins president David Morehouse said on Wednesday when talking about Rutherford, and there’s no question about that.
Colleague and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Kingerski breaks down the massive change for the Penguins and where the Penguins go from here after a pretty seismic change to their management group with Stanley Cup aspirations still there with guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin still on the roster.
Will the Penguins come out with a different kind of energy against the Boston Bruins on Thursday after the front office shakeup? It’s too early to tell, but big changes like that can definitely act as jumper cables to a hockey club in need of some energy.
Defensemen Brian Dumoulin (lower body) and John Marino (upper body) were both injured in the Tuesday night game against the Bruins, didn’t practice on Wednesday and are question marks for Thursday night’s game. The injuries mean taxi squad member Kevin Czuczman may see his first NHL game action since April 13, 2014 when he was a member of the New York Islanders.
The Penguins also signed veteran defenseman Yanick Weber to a two-way contract on Wednesday as it sounds like their back end is in a bit of turmoil right now.
Weber will need to clear waivers before he can be placed on the taxi squad for the Penguins.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Trent Frederic – Par Lindholm – Jack Studnicka
Jeremy Lauzon – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo
Jakub Zboril – Kevan Miller
Extras: John Moore, Connor Clifton
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines