The Bruins play their first game since March 10 on Thursday night when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in their lone exhibition game before they begin their round-robin tournament on Sunday, and we now know what the lineup will look like thanks to coach Bruce Cassidy's pregame Zoom call with the media.
Cassidy confirmed that David Pastrnak will play after getting three practices under his belt in Toronto. Nick Ritchie, who returned to the ice for Thursday's optional morning skate after missing nearly a full week of practice, will not play.
In other lineup news, Cassidy said Tuukka Rask will start in net, but that Jaroslav Halak will also play. It may not necessarily be an exact even split in terms of ice time.
The Bruins are allowed to carry two extra skaters for the game, and Cassidy said those two will be Karson Kuhlman up front and John Moore on defense. Cassidy said that even though Jack Studnicka will start as the second-line right wing and Anders Bjork as the third-line right wing, Kuhlman will get some shifts as well and there could be some rotation there.
Here is the expected lineup:
ForwardsBrad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David PastrnakJake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Jack StudnickaSean Kuraly - Charlie Coyle - Anders BjorkJoakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris WagnerKarson Kuhlman
DefenseZdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoyTorey Krug - Brandon CarloMatt Grzelcyk - Jeremy LauzonJohn Moore
GoaliesTuukka RaskJaroslav Halak
As for special teams, the first power-play unit will be Krug, Pastrnak, Bergeron, Marchand and DeBrusk. The second will be Grzelcyk, McAvoy, Krejci, Coyle and either Studnicka or Bjork in the "bumper" position that Bergeron plays on the first unit. Cassidy said Studnicka will probably get the first look there.
Here are some other notes from Cassidy's press conference:
- On what he sees from Kuhlman and what it might take for him to get into the lineup: "He checks well, he gets on pucks, he's a good forechecker, he manages pucks. We're just looking for him, especially if he goes up, to make more plays if he's with Krejci and DeBrusk, finish a few more plays. We've seen some of that in practice, just not consistently. It's not his go-to game, but we certainly feel comfortable and he's a good, reliable player for us. ... Right now we're taking a look at Jack on right wing, in a spot that Karson has played. We know what Karson can do there. We've moved Bjork around the right side. He kind of knows that if he's going to play in those roles, we're going to need a little offense out of him. Not every night, but from game-to-game when it's there, to pitch in. I like how he's played with Coyle in their limited ice time together. That's a good spot for him."
- On if there are any unknowns he'll be watching for Thursday night: "I think we'll continue to check well. We'll defend well. Those habits don't go away. We're a very structured team. Guys buy into it. I think you'll see us use our fourth line against some good players, some good lines. In that regard, away from the puck, I think our game will be consistent. For me it's, are we going to get into managing the puck mode immediately, or is it going to take three or four games? Is it going to take a series? Because that's what happens when you're off for a while. You've practiced a lot, you're making plays all over the ice, you haven't had to deal with tight checking games. So that'll be what I'm looking for tonight. Are we making good decisions with it? How are our line changes? That's something else guys haven't done. Are we sloppy? Are we on time?"
- On possibly sitting Studnicka during the game to see how he responds: "We might purposely look at having him sit on the bench for five, six minutes, and see how he reacts to it. Because that's what (Kuhlman) was good at for us. He could sit, and then get out there and get his motor running, and do what he does best without having to play big minutes, and get into a rhythm. We like that about him. There are players that just happens. Through the course of a game, special teams happen, we get down, we need a goal so Pasta gets double-shifted, whatever, it hurts Kuhly's chances to play. But then when we needed him, he went out and did it. So that'll be a test for Bjork as well and Jack to be able to go from being a big-minute guy (in Providence). Anders has gone through it here in the NHL. He played a lot at Notre Dame and had to learn his first year here it wasn't always going to be that way. He responded well at times, and other times he needed to get it up and running quicker. Those are some things we'll look at."