CHICAGO – The Bruins missed out on the first flurry of defensemen traded on Friday morning, but they may be in on the second wave of quality D-men expected to be made available around the NHL Draft.
The Bruins are one of several teams actively in discussions with the Minnesota Wild about defenseman Marco Scandella, who fits the profile of what the B's are looking for to fill a top-four role. TVA’s Ren Lavoie was the first to report the latest interest but the Bruins have long been watching the Minnesota back-end situation waiting for one of their defenders to become available.
Scandella, 27, is big, at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, he’s got a few years of NHL experience, he’s a left-handed shot and he’s already proven he can be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. Scandella is coming off a so-so season with the Wild where he posted four goals and 13 points along with a minus-2 rating in 71 games. and for the first time in three seasons, he averaged under 20 minutes of ice time for the first time in the past three seasons.
RELATED: Haggerty's Mock Draft 4.0: Expect a frenzy of pre-draft trades
Scandella would be a good potential fit on the left side in a top-four role playing in a pairing with Charlie McAvoy as the B's look for a good, mobile partner that can play at both ends of the ice. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they are clearly not the only team in the running for the Montreal-born Scandella. One of those teams is his hometown Montreal Canadiens, who are hungry for a few D-men after losing several in the past couple of weeks.
There are other names filtering out of Chicago as the draft gets underway tonight. One of the more interesting D-names is Massachusetts native Noah Hanifin. The former Boston College standout is rumored to be available as the Carolina Hurricanes look to bring some star power in at the forward position. He was the player Boston initially wanted in the draft a couple of years ago before standing pat and selecting Jakub Zboril as one of three consecutive first-round picks.
There doesn’t seem to be a match for Hanifin with David Pastrnak as the only realistic option to be going to Carolina in return and that’s not something the Bruins are going to entertain with one of their cornerstone roster pieces. Still, it’s encouraging that so many quality D-man names are emerging on the trade market with Don Sweeney and the Bruins looking to get down to business this weekend.
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: