BOSTON - After missing the last two games with a lower-body injury, Patrice Bergeron is likely to return to the lineup for the Bruins' matchup with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at TD Garden. Bergeron got through a light skate on Wednesday and pregame skate this morning without incident.
"I felt good this morning," said Bergeron. "Unless something happens between now and then, I think I'm ready to go and I'll be playing tonight."
Bergeron was "very close" to suiting up on Tuesday night in New Jersey, but the medical staff opted to advise him that another night off may be beneficial. Now 34, Bergeron realizes that being cautious is often the more prudent approach.
"I think you do learn," said Bergeron. "I think the last three years have kind of opened my eyes even more so about that. We've worked with the medical staff on this one to make sure it wasn't gonna linger…you try to not make things linger based on that experience. There's always something to learn and that's definitely something I have to learn."
While Bergeron is set to return, Brett Ritchie will not play as he deals with a flare up of an infection that caused him to miss five games earlier this month. With Ritchie out, Par Lindholm will remain in the lineup as Boston's third-line center between Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen.
Charlie Coyle, meanwhile, will move up to the right wing to play with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
"Thought it was a good mix with Krech," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Bjork was there on the wing [last week]…for me, Charlie just [need to] keep playing the same way, be assertive with the puck…attack, don't all of a sudden now differ because you're with an experienced center. Just play your game. We'll keep an eye on it.
"We wanted to get the best out of him and I think this is a viable option. We talked about doing it at some point. But we always go back to I like him in the middle, I like him with Heinen and Bjork, they were terrific the other night.
"Not in any hurry to break that up, but that would be moving Lindholm to the right wing. The easiest thing to stay consistent would probably be to keep Lindholm in the middle and move Coyle to the right wing."
In other injury news, Torey Krug skated for the second straight day, this time donning a maroon non-contact jersey during an optional pregame skate. Krug, who has missed the last five games with an upper-body injury, is aiming for a Saturday return.
"That's what we're counting on," said Cassidy. "The report I got the other day is that he would be with us practicing [on Friday]. I don't want to get ahead of myself…he's not playing until he gets through a practice with us…whether that's a tough morning skate or a full practice tomorrow we'll have to kid of determine that."
David Backes skated following morning skate on Thursday, marking the first time he's hit the ice since suffering an upper-body injury during a scary collision with Ottawa's Scott Sabourin on Nov. 2.
Per Cassidy, Karson Kuhlman received bad news after a recent MRI on a non-displaced fracture of his right tibia suffered on Oct. 19 in Toronto. "Wasn't great news for him. He's going to continue to be in the boot," said Cassidy.
After a strong start to the season, Buffalo is 2-7-2 over its last 11 games. The Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) still sit just 1 point behind Philadelphia for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo is paced, as always, by Chelmsford native Jack Eichel, who leads the Sabres with 25 points and 13 goals in 21 games.
"He's been good here [in Boston], whether that's hometown, home state driven, or it's just because he's good player," said Cassidy. "I don't watch every game of his obviously. He is there best player, we know that, he's been good against us."
Wait, There's More
- Bruins head athletic trainer Don DelNegro, who is in his 27th season with the club, will take part in his 2,000th NHL game on Thursday evening.
- With his two-goal night in New Jersey on Tuesday, David Pastrnak reached the 150-goal plateau, becoming the second-fastest Bruin to reach that mark behind Barry Pederson (316 games).
Thursday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork - Par Lindholm - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk - Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen - Connor Clifton