NEWARK - On the heels of clinching a postseason berth, the Bruins will be right back at it on Tuesday night to finish off a two-game, back-to-back set with the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
Jaroslav Halak will get the call between the pipes for his first start since April 3. The netminder, who missed roughly two weeks while on the COVID protocols list, has made one appearance over the last month, a 17-minute relief stint in the B's loss to Buffalo on April 23.
"In our discussion, Jaro vs. Swayman, [Goalie coach Bob Essensa] felt [Halak] got his work in and was ready to go," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "So that's the direction we're going to go tonight."
Brandon Carlo will also rejoin the lineup after missing the last 18 games with an oblique injury. The blue liner has played just two games since March 5.
Other lineup changes for the Bruins include the returns of Mike Reilly, who sat out Monday night's win for maintenance, and Trent Frederic, who has suited up only twice since April 6.
With Carlo, Reilly, and Frederic in, Jakub Zboril, Kevan Miller, and Karson Kuhlman will be scratched.
"The plan was to put Reilly back in. I thought Jakub played real solid, he hadn't played in a while," Cassidy said of the young blue liner, who had an assist, two shots on goal, and a plus-2 rating on Monday night.
"Had a good game for us, so that's a good problem to have when guys go in and play well. But he'll be the guy coming out because [Matt Grzelcyk] and [Jeremy] Lauzon will stay in. That's how our back end is going to look."
Video: Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy preps for New Jersey
Some Final Tweaks
One of Cassidy priorities over the final five games of the regular season is finding the right combinations on the back end. Injuries have prevented the Bruins from operating with their desired six pack of blue liners in recent weeks, but with Carlo returning, the hope is that some chemistry can start to build.
"I think we have experimented, obviously, who's the best D partner for Reilly," said Cassidy. "I don't think it's messing around much by any means. Those are probably going to be our six if everyone's healthy. It's just who goes with who, depends on the matchup."
In goal, Cassidy said that he expects Tuukka Rask to play two of the final five games.
"It won't be the back-to-back, we won't put him in that," said Cassidy. "We haven't put him in that position all year going into playoffs, so probably wouldn't be in the Washington game. After that we'll sort out who gets what game. Let's see how Jaro does tonight, where his game's at first and foremost.
"We know that Tuukka's on his game and we know that [Jeremy] Swayman has played well for us as well. A little bit will depend on Jaro…but you can plan on, after tonight. Tuukka getting two of the last four. And then we'll see where Swayman and Jaro fit in after that."
Getting Some Rest
Cassidy also mentioned that he is likely to find time to rest some of the Bruins' top-end players, but that it won't be until next week.
"We did not really think about it [for] tonight, to be honest with you," said Cassidy. "We thought last night wasn't a taxing game minutes-wise on the forward group. We tried to balance it out, we were able to do that. We may look at it next week, Monday-Tuesday.
"How do we make that split? Some of that will depend on, when are we opening? Where are we opening? That's something to be determined and that will be a conversation with the players. What's at stake? What if we go into Washington and it's a first-place game? Or home advantage game?
"So, we do have to consider what's at stake before we make that decision. But first and foremost, it'll go to the players' health. Where are they at, how do they feel? And then we'll go from there."
Finding Some Chemistry
The Bruins' new-look third line of Nick Ritchie, Sean Kuraly, and Charlie Coyle appears to be gaining some momentum as the postseason approaches. All three players have found the back of the net over the past three games - Ritchie has potted two with Kuraly and Coyle notching one apiece - and have put together some extended offensive zone time with strong puck possession.
"I think we needed a kind of shut down, turn-the-tide type of line," said Cassidy. "And usually, those guys are straight line guys that will keep the play simple and play behind the other team's D to just stop the bleeding a little bit, sometimes if you're not managing pucks, change the physical nature of the game. That was the ask with Rtichie, Kuraly and Coyle.
"You still value the scoring part in the bottom [six], just like we value the checking part in the top when they don't have the puck, but identify yourselves a little better. That's what you're going to do for the team, and that's what they've done. And they've added the scoring, which is much more fun, when you get rewarded for your efforts offensively. That was the thinking behind it.
"Playoffs are coming up, that style of play becomes more prevalent. I think you need some people to go in there and be able to do that in certain parts of the game or establish it early in the game for that matter…so far, they've responded very well."
Video: BOS@NJD: Ritchie buries one-timer for opening goal
By The Numbers
- David Pastrnak is one goal short of his 200th NHL goal.
- Charlie McAvoy is four assists short of his 100th NHL assist.
- The Bruins visit the Devils tonight in the eighth and final game between these teams this season.
- The Bruins improved to 3-3-1 vs. the Devils in this season's series with Monday night's 3-0 victory.
Tuesday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall - David Krejci - Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie - Sean Kuraly - Charlie Coyle
Trent Frederic - Curtis Lazar - Jake DeBrusk
Jeremy Lauzon - Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk - Brandon Carlo
Mike Reilly - Connor Clifton