Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is going to make at least a couple lineup changes for Saturday's Game 3 against the Hurricanes, regardless of whether David Pastrnak is able to return to the lineup after being "unfit to participate" in Thursday's Game 2 loss.
We know this because Cassidy said so when he talked to the media via Zoom Friday afternoon.
"I do," Cassidy said when asked if he anticipates making any changes. "We had some guys go on the ice today. There's always the day-to-day bumps and bruises, so to sit here and tell you our lineup might be inaccurate because of that. But we'll be making some changes both at forward and D. Some of that is to get some energy in the lineup and change the look of our forward group."
What exactly will those lineup changes be? That we don't know. The most obvious one would be Pastrnak going back in if he's cleared to return. Cassidy said he could "possibly" play Saturday, but for the second day in a row noted the challenge of having no morning skate to test his injury with the noon start time. Pastrnak was not on the ice for Friday's optional practice.
Even if Pastrnak is out again, it sounds like there will be other changes up front. The most logical move would be Par Lindholm coming into the lineup in the fourth-line center spot, with Sean Kuraly probably moving up to the third line. That could then mean either Nick Ritchie or Karson Kuhlman comes out, as it seems highly unlikely either fourth-line wing (Joakim Nordstrom or Chris Wagner) would be benched given the way they've been playing, unless there's an injury.
Neither Ritchie nor Kuhlman has put up a point since the restart, but Kuhlman has looked better in transition and on the forecheck, and has also landed five shots on goal to just one for Ritchie. Cassidy had said Thursday that he liked the physicality Ritchie was bringing, though, so it's possible he may still see a place for that even in a changing lineup.
The second line of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Ondrej Kase would seemingly be the one line that won't be touched given how well they've been playing, but the first line could look a little different if Pastrnak is out again and Cassidy decides to try someone other than Anders Bjork on the right.
Bjork looked pretty good with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for the most part, as in 7:34 of five-on-five ice time they played together, the Bruins had a 17-9 advantage in shot attempts and 10-3 advantage in shots on goal. After the game Cassidy said he thought Bjork played well overall, but he also noted that Bjork couldn't finish a grade-A chance early in the game. He basically reiterated that Friday while being noncommittal either way in terms of whether Bjork would stay there.
"I thought Anders, with David being out, did a pretty good job early on," Cassidy said. "Had a great look, unfortunately didn't finish. Made a few plays, one to Krech, one I think to Bergy on the forecheck winning some pucks. Had a couple battles he could be better on, but everybody's like that.
"I thought overall he did what he could with his skill set to help that line. Nobody is going to replace Pastrnak, walk right on, but if guys can go in there and complement Bergy and Marsh and help them create some offense, then they’ve done a good thing, and I think Anders did some of that last night. So doesn't mean he'll go back there, but I don’t think that was the reason we fell a goal short."
A couple more intriguing options would be bringing in top prospect Jack Studnicka or moving Charlie Coyle up from third-line center to first-line right wing. Cassidy did mention both possibilities Thursday night, though that kind of shakeup doesn't seem as likely as a simple Lindholm-in-for-Ritchie type move further down the lineup.
Studnicka practiced with both of the top two lines while Pastrnak and Kase were out during training camp, then played two games on the second line before Kase returned with mixed results -- a strong performance in an exhibition game against Columbus, but a more inconsistent game against the Flyers in the round-robin opener.
As for Coyle, Cassidy has long been adamant that he prefers him at center rather than wing, and Coyle has always looked more comfortable in the middle, but you never know.
On defense, the obvious name to get scratched is Jeremy Lauzon. Barring an injury situation, the Bruins' other five defensemen are all pretty locked in. They're all averaging more than 19 minutes per game in the playoffs, while Lauzon is averaging 14:23. Lauzon also took a bad penalty in Game 2 when he went after Haydn Fleury following a clean hit on Kuhlman.
Who comes in is the question. Connor Clifton would seem to be the most likely option given that he plays on the right side and played pretty well in the round-robin finale against Washington, but John Moore could also be an option. The problem there is that Moore hasn't played since the exhibition game more than two weeks ago, and neither he nor third-pairing anchor Matt Grzelcyk are super comfortable playing on the right side.
One thing that's unlikely to change is the goalie, as Cassidy said he "anticipates" Tuukka Rask will be back in goal for a third straight game despite another quick turnaround.