NEW YORK -- Shortly after a brief morning practice heading into Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins were expecting a desperate effort from an opponent looking to avoid a series sweep.
Hearing about the Rangers' announcement that forward Brad Richards would be scratched and Arron Asham could be out as well in favor of bigger players Kris Newbury and Micheal Haley did nothing to change that.
"Doesn't matter to me," Bruins coach Claude Julien said when asked about the Rangers' lineup changes. "We're here to win the hockey game tonight. We're going to do whatever it takes."
"Whatever it takes" likely will mean sticking with the same lineup that won the first three games of this series. Injured defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden skated together at practice and Julien gave no indication of any lineup changes, but it appears likely the Bruins will stick with all three of their rookie defensemen.
That means Boston will be fielding a lineup similar to the group that coughed up a 3-1 series lead to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals before staging a remarkable comeback in Game 7. So if there is any group in hockey that can appreciate the importance of closing out a series, it's probably this one.
"You're never out until you're out," defenseman Adam McQuaid said. "I hate to say it over and over, but the last game is the hardest to win and we have to come out with our best effort."
Completing the sweep of New York certainly won't be easy. Through the regular season and playoffs, the Rangers have posted a 9-1-1 record in their past 11 home games. And with the more physical Newbury and Haley in the lineup, Boston is expecting a battle in Game 4.
"They should come out ready to play harder than ever," forward Daniel Paille said. "For us, it's going to be important to just maintain what we continue to do throughout the series and stay composed like we have been. The start of the game is going to be crucial."
Paille expressed surprise at the news Richards would be a healthy scratch.
"Whoever is going to take his spot is going to want to be a difference-maker," he said. "It's just going to make it that much harder. I think that will wake up their team."
Here is the projected lineup for the Bruins: