Once again, Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins are in ‘next man up’ territory.
The Bruins started the week with a sloppy 6-5 win over the Red Wings with their top center (Patrice Bergeron) and their top right-shot defenseman (Charlie McAvoy) nursing lower-body injuries. David Backes will join the injured duo Thursday night against an improved Flyers squad as he serves a the first of his three-game suspension for his hit to the head on Detroit forward Frans Nielsen.
Despite their current four-game skid, Dave Hakstol has seen his team bounce back since the Bruins extended the Flyers’ losing streak to 10 straight the first time these two teams met on Dec. 3. With 79 points, the Flyers sit three points ahead of the Devils for third place in the Metropolitan Division while also staying within striking distance of the division’s first-place Penguins (82 points) and second place Capitals (81 points).
Their defense and goaltending are still suspect, but the Flyers would be more than happy to get in a proverbial track meet with a Bruins team that has scored 20 goals in their last four games.
From Sean Couturier’s career season (63 points in 67 games) to the usual suspects in Claude Giroux (fourth in the NHL with 79 points), Jakub Voracek (tied for 12th with Alex Ovechkin with 72 points) and Wayne Simmonds (20 goals), Thursday’s Burins-Flyers showdown at TD Garden can easily provide some fireworks.
Gametime: 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 41-15-8 (90 points), Flyers 34-22-11 (79 points)
Location: TD Garden
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Riley Nash-David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Rick Nash
Danton Heinen-Tommy Wingels-Brian Gionta
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller
Flyers projected lines
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Fippula-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas
– Backes’ reputation as a physical, but clean player is well deserved. In fact, the former Blues captain never even had a hearing with the NHL’s Player Safety Department prior to Wednesday. That amounts to over 848 career NHL games and over 2,400 hits before. From five-on-five to providing a big body on the power play, the Bruins will be missing the power forward against a heavy Flyers bunch Thursday evening.
“My agent did all the numbers and I think I had over 2,400 hits in this league over 12 seasons and never even had a hearing, let alone a fine, let alone a suspension,” Backes told reporters following the B’s morning skate on Causeway St.
“If we’re trying to teach a lesson — or critique — one out of 2,400 hits that I was really trying to really avoid and that’s kind of been acknowledged as well…I don’t know how effective that is. That’s a small little decimal if you do the division. So, that’s where we’re at. It’s the situation we’re in. That’s the world we live in, as the league likes to say a lot. So, that’s the world we live in.”
– Tuukka Rask was living in a world of his own over a three-month stretch but has come back down to earth a little bit. Rask is just 4-3-0 since having his 21-game point streak (19-0-2 in that span) snapped in early February. The 2014 Vezina winner returns after missing the last two games because of a minor injury and it comes against an opponent he’s done quite well against during his career. Rask is 13-2-3 with a stingy 1.99 GAA and .930 SV% and two shutouts, including one in December, in his career against the Flyers. Without their top center, top right-shot defenseman and their third line power forward, the Bruins would like nothing more than for Rask to continue his successful track record against Philly.