Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while escaping the depths of the slowest sports week of the year.
*The New Jersey Devils believe that they’re “moving the needle” with acquisitions like Brian Boyle and Marcus Johansson, and they might just be right.
*New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault doesn’t mind working on the same staff with the man that might end up replacing him in Lindy Ruff.
*Interesting look at star-power on each of the 31 NHL teams, and how it factors into the business of winning and losing games.
*It’s looking unlikely that Andrei Markov is going to return to the Montreal Canadiens, and that is an end of an era of sorts in Montreal.
*Former NHL forward RJ Umberger is aiming for an NHL return after securing a tryout deal with the Dallas Stars.
*Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is keeping the band together after completing a contract extension for Ondrej Palat this weekend after one earlier in the week for Tyler Johnson.
*For something completely different: How on Earth was Tom Brady waiting to be admitted into any country club? Tom Brady waits for nothing and no one.
TORONTO – The Bruins will need to take a pivotal Game 4 without their best player as Patrice Bergeron is out for Thursday night’s playoff game at the Air Canada Centre with an upper body injury. Bergeron will be day-to-day moving forward, but that’s not going to help the B’s as they lose one piece of a forward line that’s dominated the Maple Leafs through the first three games of the series.
It’s really not a great sign when the Bruins had two days off in Toronto between Game 3 and Game 4, and Bergeron still wasn’t able to give it a go on Thursday night. Instead it will be Riley Nash centering the top line between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and Tommy Wingels entering back into the lineup with No. 37 out of the lineup. There was a faint sign that something might be up with Bergeron when Riley Nash took some turns in his place at practice on Wednesday afternoon at Air Canada Centre, but no signal whatsoever that something was serious enough to keep him out of the lineup.
It goes without saying that the Bruins might be in big trouble if this Bergeron injury proves to be something that could cause him to miss multiple games in a best-of-seven series where the B’s currently hold a 2-1 lead. Bergeron had five assists and was a plus-4 rating in the first three games of the series with his line amassing 20 points in the first two games of the series.
Here are the Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on pregame warm-ups at the Air Canada Centre:
TORONTO – It looks like Matt Grzelcyk will be making his return to the Bruins lineup after a one-game absence with a lower body injury.
The Bruins rookie D-man took part in an optional skate at the Air Canada Centre for the Black and Gold on Thursday morning, and will be playing provided he gets through the pregame warm-ups without any hitches. A healthy Grzelcyk will replace Nick Holden in the B’s lineup and give Boston that puck-moving, fast-skating D-man that can be pretty effective counteracting a speedy, aggressive Toronto fourth line that’s been pretty good in the series thus far.
“He’s out there [skating] now, so he should be good to go. Obviously, it will be warm-ups and a game-time decision, but I anticipate he’ll go in,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s complemented well by his partner, who is usually [Adam] McQuaid or [Kevan] Miller. So you get a duo where he’s able to transition the puck very well by himself, and get out of some piles with the D-zone coverage and make a good first pass.
“He can track down pucks before defenses get set or during a line change, he’s good at getting it up [the ice] and seeing who is available. He’s very low risk generally in his game, and he does some very good things at the O-zone blue line to keep plays alive for us.”
The return of Grzelcyk appears to be the only change to the Bruins lineup ahead of a pivotal Game 4 made a little more intriguing by the NHL’s selection of South Boston native Chris Rooney as one of tonight’s referees (along with Gord Dwyer). Rooney has always carried the well-worn reputation of a referee that goes extra-hard on the Bruins to prove there isn’t a bias toward the hometown team, and the Bruins have a 7-9 record over the last three seasons in games officiated by Rooney. It’s not a main reason for the Bruins to either win or lose the game, but certainly something to keep an eye on as things unfold tonight in Toronto.
Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. the Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on morning skate: