BostonBruins.com - Through three games of the Bruins' first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the key factors in each contest has been the teams' ability to transition through the neutral zone. This is an area that Boston struggled with at times in Game 3, during which they were without rookie defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who was sidelined with a lower-body injury.
The Charlestown native rejoined the team at Wednesday's practice, skating on the third pairing alongside Adam McQuaid. And according to coach Bruce Cassidy, "it's looking like [Grzelcyk's] got a good chance to play," in Game 4, with Nick Holden expected to slide out of the lineup.
"It's tough," said Grzelcyk, who has been a consistent fixture on the back end since being recalled from Providence in November. "It [stinks]…you never want to be on the sideline. I feel like I watched too many games in college my last two years, so hopefully I don't have to watch too many more."
Video: Grzelcyk spoke to media
The Maple Leafs' speed has proven to be a challenge for the Bruins defense, but Cassidy said he believes that Grzelcyk can help tame that style of play.
"He's got the foot speed to be able to match that part of the game, when they take off," said Cassidy. "Just like they counter, we've been a pretty good transition team all year and can strike off turnovers or punted pucks if they're not structured. So, he adds to that."
Holden stepped up in Grzelcyk's absence and played 12:25 in Game 3, while picking up an assist to go along with a plus-1 rating, but Cassidy feels the team can use certain aspects of Grzelcyk's game, especially when it comes to handling the puck.
"He's a guy who can get it up in a hurry, doesn't always have to go D-to-D, gets around it, it's gone, usually delivers a good pass," said Cassidy. "That's the part of the game that we missed the other night. Nick was fine, but that's Grizz's strength. I think he's defended very well for a young guy in the league, for a guy that's 175 pounds. He's done a real good job figuring out how to defend, so we missed him the other night."
Fourth Line Still A Force
The line of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari repeatedly caught the attention of its opponents throughout the regular season, and it is continuing to contribute in more ways than one early on in the playoffs. Kuraly and Schaller have combined for a goal and three assists in three games - with all three of the assists coming in Game 3 - while Acciari has led the way with four hits.
"They were great the other night," said Cassidy. "They generated two goals [by Adam McQuaid and Zdeno Chara] by playing the right way, playing to their strengths; behind the D, forecheck, get to the net. I know the D got the goals, but they started the plays."
The hardworking, blue-collar nature of the line can wear down opponents and provide energy for the rest of the team, as it sets the tone physically. Acciari's 12 hits tie him with David Backes for the most among Bruins forwards, and the line as a whole has combined for 23 hits through three games.
"Physicality-wise, we want that every game from them," Cassidy said. "I think we got more of it the first couple of games…I think they'll find that part of it. Listen, you've watched them all year, right? There's not too many nights off for them."
Video: Bruce Cassidy speaks to media in Toronto
DeBrusk Not Backing Down
Rookie forward Jake DeBrusk has looked like a seasoned veteran during his first three playoff games, and he displayed that confidence with an incredible end-to-end rush in Game 3 that saw him dance around four Leafs players. He attempted to cap off the highlight with a backdoor one-timer to David Krejci, but the puck exploded off of Krejci's stick and went wide of the net.
"That was unbelievable, that shift," Cassidy said of DeBrusk's effort. "I don't know if he'd tell you he was trying to do that…I don't want to rain on his parade. But, that's just a little more resilience, stronger on pucks…Jake's still a young guy and he's wired; he'll get to the net, good nose for the net…it's good this time of year because some guys shy away, have a tough time.
"He's been fine out there - better than fine. We were hoping that would be the case with some veterans around him, and so far, so good."
The Edmonton, Alberta native has accumulated one goal, one assist and six hits thus far in the series.
Wednesday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Rick Nash
Danton Heinen - Riley Nash - David Backes
Tim Schaller - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari
Ryan Donato - Brian Gionta - Tommy Wingels
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Kevan Miller
Matt Grzelcyk/Nick Holden - Adam McQuaid
Video: Chara Addresses media after Practice at The ACC