Joe Haggerty

Bruins center David Krejci (upper body) out tonight vs. Lightning

Bruins center David Krejci (upper body) out tonight vs. Lightning

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins will continue the juggling act that’s been going with David Krejci (upper body) for much of the early season as the top-6 pivot is out for tonight’s important divisional game vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Krejci exited Monday’s win over Anaheim after two shifts in the second period, and then left midway through Wednesday’s practice ahead of the showdown with the Bolts. Krejci’s absence obviously has a cascading effect among the rest of the forwards as Charlie Coyle will be bumped up to second-line center, and Par Lindholm will draw back into the lineup as the third-line center between Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman.

Otherwise, second-year D-man Connor Clifton will also come back into the lineup fold for the Bruins vs. Tampa after serving as a healthy scratch while Steve Kampfer replaced him on the B’s back end on Monday.

“I think I had been okay. I hadn’t been at my best. We were winning games and I’m back in tonight. So I’m worrying about that,” said Clifton. “You want to play your best. It’s early and I’m cleaning things up, but I expect to be ready to go tonight.”

Tuukka Rask will get the start in net as Cassidy and Co. may begin deviating from the strict goaltending rotation sooner rather than later with some important games coming back up for the Black and Gold.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings with Brett Ritchie serving as a second-line right wing while Anders Bjork continues to tear it up for the Providence Bruins:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk Charlie Coyle Brett RItchie
Danton Heinen Par Lindholm Karson Kuhlman
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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For Bruins, the real regular season starts tonight against Lightning

For Bruins, the real regular season starts tonight against Lightning

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins did what they set out to at the start of the hockey year, and now the real season gets going.

They battled through adversity, a few injuries and a quick summer turnover coming off the Stanley Cup Final run to get off to a 5-1-0 start to the regular season, and sit near the top of the Atlantic Division right out of the gate.

But let’s be honest. There hasn’t been a lot of sizzle to any of these early season games. They dispatched a bunch of teams out west to start the year, and then they completely outclassed the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks on home ice to start their TD Garden schedule.

But Thursday is when the real season begins. The Bruins will host last year’s NHL Presidents' Trophy winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on Thursday night and then they will play the Toronto Maple Leafs in a home-and-home series that’s sure to stir up the rivalry embers.

As if that isn’t enough, the Bruins will then finish with a home date against the St. Louis Blues just a few months after their highly physical, fierce seven-game Stanley Cup Final series back in June. In strictly technical terms, these next four games simply represent 4.8 percent of the 82-game regular season schedule.

But in terms of importance, the Black and Gold are expecting a significant, noticeable raise in the level of intensity after simply playing “okay” while winning five of their first six games to start the regular season.

“I think they would amp up [over the next few games]. They certainly will on our side. Knowing our group, we’re a competitive group. Toronto to me is definitely a rivalry, and that goes back to the Original Six and a number of playoff matchups over the years,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I would like to think we’ll be better for 60 minutes over the next three games because of what’s at stake with a divisional rival, and the familiarity there with the energy level going up.

“You don’t need to explain how many times we play them and how we’ve played them in the playoffs. That’s naturally going to evolve. [The game vs. Tampa] will definitely be a measuring stick game for us. Every time we play them we need to be at our best because they’re at the top of the division every year. We look at it certainly as a bigger challenge than on some other nights.”

The rematch against St. Louis next week certainly speaks for itself, and the early season home-and-home against the Maple Leafs will be something that sets a tone between those two hockey clubs for the entirety of the season. Never mind that Boston has ended Toronto’s season in the first round in each of the last two postseasons, or that the Lightning, Leafs and Bruins are once again expected to be a three-team Battle Royale at the top of the Atlantic again this season.

These will finally be some hockey games with emotion, energy and even a little good, old-fashioned hatred that’s been missing to this point in the early season. 

“They are big games. Especially the first time you see them in a season you want to set the tone,” said Torey Krug. “It’s a rivalry game, in division and guys that we’ve seen in the playoffs over the last couple of years. You have to be excited about these matchups.

“I would hope both teams are [treating it as a measuring stick]. We’re playing pretty well and both [Tampa and Toronto] would like to be off to better starts than they have had. We both just want to line up, go punch-for-punch and see where we all stand up at the end of the night.”

It’s in these intense, well-matched divisional games where Boston’s top-heavy offense and their case of second-period ennui is going to catch up them if they’re not careful over the next week of hockey.

The out-of-conference wins for the Bruins at the start of the year have been important, and will come in handy when/if the Bruins hit the wall a little bit later in the season. But the ultra-important, divisional points will now start being up for grabs starting Thursday night against Tampa, and these next few games will give us the real read as to where Boston’s game is at this point very early in the NHL regular season.

Preview: Bruins vs Lightning>>>>>

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Bruins HC Bruce Cassidy: Poor second periods are 'going to bite us in the ass'

Bruins HC Bruce Cassidy: Poor second periods are 'going to bite us in the ass'

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Bruce Cassidy is obviously pleased that the Bruins have jumped out to a 5-1-0 start this season, but the B’s head coach also knows the team is playing with fire when it comes to their lackluster second periods.

Sure, the Bruins are outscoring opponents by a 4-3 margin in second periods this season, so it doesn’t appear to be a big deal statistically. But the B’s have also scored first in five of their six games thus far this season, and that plays into a bit of the middle 20-minute malaise that has been one of Boston’s weak spots in an otherwise encouraging start to the season.

Cassidy went so far as to call the second period effort “exceptionally poor” in Monday’s win over the Ducks as they were outshot 16-6, and admitted after Wednesday’s practice that they’ve been able to get away with the lollygagging as of late against less dangerous teams like the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks. Certainly the superior play of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak in the early going has saved them as well, but that isn’t going to be sustainable against a higher caliber of competition.

In fact that’s going to change with Atlantic Division rivals in the Lightning and the Maple Leafs on the docket over the next week.  

“We could probably fall behind [on the scoreboard] and then we’d see a better second [period]. I don’t want to go down that road if we can help it because we pride ourselves on starting on time. [It’s about] the details of the game and getting their attention,” said Cassidy. “This might happen [against Tampa Bay] or on Saturday. We may start seeing teams that aren’t as offensively challenged as the last few that we’ve had to let them off the hook.

“We might learn just because of the competition that we’re playing. I don’t think it’s anything that they’re not aware of. They lose their focus, they lose their details, the line changes are slower and the puck management is softer. Some of these things they kind of lose their way a little bit. Some of it is on us to get their attention, but some of it is on them that it’s part of their responsibility as well when they step on the ice. I’m not losing my mind over it, but I know it’s something that’s going to bite us in the ass at some point.”

Will the Bruins tighten up their second period issues, or will it be the fatal flaw that sinks them in some ultra-important games against Tampa Bay and Toronto over the next few days? We’ll soon find out as the real regular season begins to get going with Boston’s traditional rivals that can expose weaknesses that have been masked over the first few weeks of the regular season.

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