BOSTON -- All signs point to injured Boston forward Patrice Bergeron playing in Thursday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Bergeron will take part in Game 3’s morning skate Thursday at St. Pete Times Forum; if he suffers no setbacks, all signs point to him returning to the Boston lineup that night.
"Tomorrow morning, he's going to be on the ice," Julien said. "I have a feeling that at that point, there's going to be discussions on whether he's ready to go or not. I can't tell you right now whether he's in or not. That's being honest. He's certainly inching closer to making a return as long as there's no setbacks."
Bergeron did not skate Wednesday because the Bruins did not take the ice on the travel day from Boston to Tampa Bay, but he had skated each of the four previous days. Julien said that Bergeron was involved in contact drills at some point before Tuesday’s game and passed that test.
Bergeron, who has not played since suffering a concussion 12 days ago in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, still must be cleared by the medical staff before making an appearance in Thursday’s game. But if he is cleared, expect Bergeron to take a regular shift on the second line.
"He feels his conditioning is right on," Julien said. "In skating practices, he doesn't feel winded or anything like that."
That means Bergeron will play between Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand and that he will take regular shifts on the penalty kill.
Tyler Seguin, however, will not be the one removed from the lineup if Bergeron returns. Seguin, a rookie, was Bergeron’s replacement in the first two games of the series, but he has earned his way into the lineup after scoring 3 goals and 3 assists in the two games, including a two-goal, four-point night in Tuesday’s 6-5 Boston win in Game 2.
Most likely, a member of the fourth line will be scratched as Rich Peverley slides down one line. On Tuesday night, he was centering Bergeron’s line. The player most likely to be scratched is Shawn Thornton. Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, the other two members of the fourth line, bring other assets that Julien is hesitant to scratch from the lineup. Paille is one of the team’s most energetic players and also is among the most defensively sound. Campbell, meanwhile, can kill penalties and take some key draws.