Game Day Preview: Bruins at Lightning
They’ve overcome in-game deficits and significant injuries, but the Boston Bruins are still staring adversity in the face entering Saturday’s pivotal road tilt with the Eastern Conference leading-Tampa Bay Lightning.
With trade deadline acquisition Ryan McDonagh now healthy, the Bolts, despite falling to the Senators Tuesday night, have several high-end players at their disposal. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman always pose a tough matchup for any healthy club, let alone any injury-plagued team like the Black and Gold.
Even with a game in hand and two more meetings following Saturday, the Bruins realistically need a regulation win over the talented Lightning for any chance of surpassing Tampa at the end of the year. The B’s, fresh off being shut out for the second time all season Thursday night against the Panthers, currently sit four points in back of the Bolts.
A tough matchup awaits for Bruce Cassidy and company as they look to get to .500 on their four-game road trip and earn their second win over the Lightning in 2017-18.
Gametime: 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 44-17-8 (96 points), Lightning 48-18-4 (100 points)
Location: Amalie Arena
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-David Backes-David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen-David Krejci-Rick Nash
Tommy Wingels-Riley Nash-Brian Gionta
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
Nick Holden-Kevan Miller
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Matt Grzelcyk-Brandon Carlo
Lightning projected lines
J.T. Miller-Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov
Yanni Gourde-Brayden Point-Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn-Anthony Cirelli-Adam Erne
Chris Kunitz-Cory Conacher-Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman-Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev-Anton Stralman
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
– David Backes escaped discipline this time around following his ejection Thursday night for his hit on Vincent Trocheck. Another Backes suspension was the last thing the Bruins needed, but they’ll have the 12-year veteran at their disposal in this crucial late-season matchup.
– Backes will swap spots with Riley Nash and center the top line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as his wingers. The top trio skated in the first three games of 2016-17 — albeit under Claude Julien — combining for 19 points and helped the team to a 2-1 start without Patrice Bergeron. Whether this is a short-term fix to add some size to the top-six or a long-term role for Backes while Bergeron is nursing a lower-body injury, the move to put the former Blues captain on the top line is an interesting one for sure.
– Several former Rangers will take center stage in playing pivotal roles during Saturday’s showdown. Rick Nash and J.T. Miller will pivot the wings at the top six while Nick Holden, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi should all get a decent amount of ice time on the back-end. Former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, while a step slower from his days in New York, gives Tampa a decent presence on its bottom six. With two more meetings — one in late March and the other in early April — the former teammates will get quite used to one another as adversaries over the next few weeks.