The Boston Bruins (15-10-2, 32 pts), will try to keep the New Year good times rolling when they travel to the Detroit Red Wings (15-14-3, 33 pts), in the second half of back-to-back weekend matinees in a 1 PM ET (NESN, 98.5 the Sports Hub, Bally Sports Detroit) road game at Little Caesars Arena.
The Bruins trail the Red Wings for the final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by a point, but have five games in hand on Detroit while having a chance to hope over them with a regulation win on Sunday afternoon. The Bruins are 1-1-0 in two games vs. the Red Wings this season and last faced them in a frustrating 2-1 loss at TD Garden where Boston outshot Detroit by a 42-16 margin but still managed to lose despite controlling puck possession for long stretches.
The Bruins are coming off a comeback 4-3 OT win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon where secondary scoring was the story of the day with Craig Smith, Nick Foligno and Taylor Hall all scoring for the Black and Gold.
Jeremy Swayman (7-5-2, 2.29 goals against average with a .917 save percentage) will get the start for the Bruins and is getting his first game action since a Dec. 14 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Boston Bruins Notes
– For only the third time this season, the Boston Bruins will have their full NHL roster on display Sunday but it continue to look a lot different. With “The Perfection Line’ of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak once again accounting for the bulk of offensive production and those below them on the forward lines seemingly stuck in quicksand, head coach Bruce Cassidy has shaken up the lines (see below). One of the key reasons for this shake-up is to get Bruins winger Taylor Hall, who has just five goals in 26 games, lighting the lamp more. Cassidy is hoping having Hall and the dynamic Pastrnak flanking Erik Haula in the middle can open up the game for Hall.
“They both have high-end speed, they can make plays at high-end speed so they’re gonna be able to keep up with one another,” said Cassidy. “They’re both very good off the rush. Pasta’s built his cycle game. He had to play with Bergy and March. Teams defend them differently over the years where they’re not gonna let them get an odd-man rush, so he’s had to build that in.
“Taylor that’s still a work in progress, he’s got to learn to play in tight areas and off the shot, etcetera. That’s where those guys are gonna have to make sure they bear down, not just be a one-and-done line…at the end of the day, they will hopefully transition well, that’s part of it. Right now, it’s January, let’s see if we can get them going and then build in the other parts that need to be built in.”
It worked on Saturday as Hall scored the game-tying goal for the Bruins as Erik Haula drew away the defense on a key net drive.
-Nick Foligno scored his first goal in a Boston Bruins uniform on Saturday afternoon as he scooped up the rebound of a Jake DeBrusk net drive from the neutral zone and flipped it over Ukko Pekka Luukkonen for a goal that sparked a third period comeback. The goal snapped an 18-game goalless drought to start the season and the veteran winger hoped it would kick off a productive second half of the season.
“I think he knows what his game looks like when it’s going well. That’s the physicality, that’s the net-front presence,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy after Saturday’s game. “He certainly has the ability to make some plays, but, some of that with the pace of the game you leave to your younger years, and you take the other things that you can bring every night. Good for Nick.
“I’ll tell you what else I liked about him, he was vocal on the bench when we were behind. [He was] a good, positive influence. So some of those intangibles, we talk how you might not see on the scoresheet or on the television or if you’re in the building. They help you sort of settle in and get your focus back. A lot of positives for Nick tonight.”
-Curtis Lazar is out for Sunday’s game after tweaking his left leg during Saturday’s win over the Sabres. The fourth liner finished out the game, but he’ll be replaced by Oskar Steen, who was called up to replace Karson Kuhlman after he was placed in the league’s COVID protocol on Saturday night.
-Swayman gets the nod between the pipes today. The rookie netminder has the only Boston Bruins win against the Winged Wheels this season and stopped 14-of-15 shots in the 5-1 win over the Red Wings.
Detroit Red Wings Notes
-The Red Wings are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games but have lost the only game they’ve played, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals, coming out of the COVID/holiday break.
-Detroit captain Dylan Larkin leads the Red Wings with 15 goals and 29 points in 28 games for the Red Wings this season, and has teamed with youngster Lucas Raymond as an effective 1-2 offensive punch this season.
-Defenseman Nick Leddy remains in the league’s COVID protocol and is not expected to play against the Boston Bruins on Sunday.
–With Thomas Greiss having started the first game out of the extended holiday break, it’s expected Alex Nedeljkovic (9-7-3, 2.78 goals against average and .916 save percentage) will get the starting nod against the Boston Bruins in his first game action in weeks.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Craig Smith
Taylor Hall – Erik Haula – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – Charlie Coyle – Nick Foligno
Trent Frederic – Tomáš Nosek – Curtis Lazar
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort-Connor Clifton
Detroit Red Wings Lines