The Bruins always intended to mix and match combinations and players during the round robin games while readying for the true Stanley Cup Playoff rounds that await next week, and that’s exactly what they will do against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
Promising 21-year-old prospect Jack Studnicka will be a healthy scratch after a disappointing night for the second line in the Sunday afternoon loss to the Flyers, and instead Nick Ritchie will skate in his first game since Phase 4 began at the Toronto bubble.
Studnicka skated with a second group of Bruins players after the main practice, though the youngster was, for all intents and purposes, the second line forward who stood out the most during a pretty invisible afternoon for Krejci and DeBrusk.
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He had four shot attempts in 11:36 of ice time in Sunday’s loss to Philly and had a hustling back-check to break up a 2-on-1 in the first period that was one of the few B’s highlights from the entire afternoon.
“Tuukka is scheduled to start. Ritchie goes in and plays with Krejci and Kuhlman on the right,” said B's head coach Bruce Cassidy. “That’s how they practiced [on Tuesday]. We don’t want to overanalyze one particular game, but that’s where we’re at to a certain extent.
“[Studnicka] is going with the second group. He’s healthy. We’re trying to go with a smaller group on the day before the game. He was out after practice with [Trent] Frederic and [Zach] Senyshyn to get some work.”
Ritchie will play the left wing with Krejci and Karson Kuhlman on the second line, and Jake DeBrusk will drop to third line right wing alongside Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork.
Ondrej Kase won’t play against Tampa Bay, but is expected to get into this weekend’s round robin finale vs. the Washington Capitals ahead of the traditional playoff rounds. Some of it is obviously about getting all of his players some game action this week, and some of it also about a couple of disappointing games and a “low energy” practice on Tuesday that has caught Cassidy’s attention.
“It’s a tough mental part right now. You don’t know who your opponent is going to be next week and you still want to pick up wins,” said Cassidy. “You’re trying to balance that urgency while preparing for your first playoff opponent, so tomorrow [against Tampa Bay] should be a good test for us and bring out of the best of us.
“Yesterday was a good day. We worked on a lot of offensive principles, shooting the puck and getting to the net. Today we lacked a little energy. We addressed that. Part of the mental challenge for every team in this tournament is creating your own energy. We as coaches might have to look at that as well. Do we need to bring more? Should there be more chatter? Should we assign to the assistant coaches some verbal cues when [players] need to step up.”
Here are the expected line combos and D-pairings for Wednesday night’s round robin game vs. the Lightning:
|Brad Marchand||Patrice Bergeron||David Pastrnak|
|Nick Ritchie||David Krejci||Karson Kuhlman|
|Anders Bjork||Charlie Coyle||Jake DeBrusk|
|Joakim Nordstrom||Sean Kuraly||Chris Wagner|
|Zdeno Chara||Charlie McAvoy|
|Torey Krug||Brandon Carlo|
|Matt Grzelcyk||Jeremy Lauzon|