BOSTON - John Moore has suited up for just 22 games this season.
After missing the first two months of the 2019-20 campaign as he rehabbed from offseason shoulder surgery, the blue liner returned as an every-day piece on Boston's back end.
But since the Bruins' bye week at the end of January, the veteran defenseman has played in only three games - a stretch of three straight contests from Feb. 8-12 when Brandon Carlo was away from the team for a personal matter and Jeremy Lauzon was serving a two-game suspension.
The lack of playing is certainly not an easy situation for a 10-year NHL veteran, but one that Moore has handled with complete professionalism.
"He's one of the hardest working guys I've ever been around," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Would rather be in the lineup than not play, obviously, but he respects our decision and we appreciate that as a staff. Now he gets his opportunity and I'm sure part of him, depending on the length of the injury, wants to be able to stay in the lineup.
"He's got to displace someone to do that if they're all healthy. That will be the challenge for him."
Video: Moore talks to media after morning skate on Saturday
Moore's latest chance comes with Carlo sidelined by an upper-body injury, the result of an elbow to the face from Florida's Evgenii Dadonov on Thursday night in Sunrise. The 23-year-old did not skate on Saturday and was ruled out for the B's tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but was at Warrior Ice Arena for treatments and is "certainly feeling better," according to Cassidy.
"We've got lots of good players that we can plug in there," said Cassidy, referring to Moore and Connor Clifton. "We'd rather have Brandon healthy and ready to go. I think he's one of the most underrated defensemen in the National Hockey League when it comes to defending, penalty kill, shutdown type of role. He's growing his offensive game. We'll miss him."
With Carlo sidelined, an opportunity has opened up for Moore, one he has made sure he'd be ready for during his time as a healthy scratch for much of the last month.
"When I'm not in the lineup, it is my job still… I'm not rushing home to watch daytime TV," said Moore. "I do really push myself in the gym. I don't have to worry about being sore for a game. I can stay out until the trainers come out and tell me they want to go home.
"I can really go out and push myself to get better because those opportunities are not there for you when you are in the lineup. You don't have to worry about your energy and being sore for games and stuff like that…I really try and work on things as much as I can while I'm out."
Moore will slide right into Carlo's spot beside Torey Krug on Boston's second pairing.
"I love hockey and I love competing, especially with this group," said Moore. "I've done everything I can to put myself in a position for success and now it's just the fun part of going out and playing…I think the last time I was in I was on the right side as well and I pride myself on being able to play both - especially playing with Torey. He's not going to be putting me in any tough spots. He is such a smart player so I'm comfortable."
Video: Cassidy meets with media before Saturday night game
For the second time in five days, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference will square off as the Bruins battle the Lightning. Following Boston's 2-1 win on Tuesday night at Amalie Arena, both teams won their ensuing contests on Thursday - the Bruins 2-1 over Florida and the Lightning 4-0 over Montreal.
The Black & Gold, who hold a 9-point lead over Tampa for the top spot in the East, expect a similarly tight matchup.
"They're a great team," said Bergeron. "They come at you really fast, balanced lines, lots of talent. We're expecting the same thing we saw in Tampa, which was hard fought, high tempo game that was very tight.
"You want to keep getting better, keep advancing, keep getting those points and pushing those teams that are behind you down."
Video: Bergeron talks to media after Saturday morning skate
Wait, There's More
There will be a couple of tweaks up front for the Bruins, as Par Lindholm will slide back into the lineup as the fourth-line center between Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner. With that, Sean Kuraly will bump up to third-line left wing alongside Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner.
Anders Bjork, who was in the lineup on Thursday night in Florida, will be a healthy scratch for the third time in four games.
"It's just being a little stronger overall," Cassidy said when asked which areas Bjork can improve. "I thought the Florida game he got knocked around early on. Got better as it went along. And that's what you're gonna see, more determined men style of play in the playoffs.
"That's what we're trying to prep him for, not necessarily for tomorrow or Tuesday or Friday. For him it's short term and long term, this is what you're gonna be up against, are you ready for it or not?"
Saturday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie - David Krejci - Ondrej Kase
Sean Kuraly - Charlie Coyle - Jake DeBrusk
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - John Moore
Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon