COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Bruins are hoping to get a bit of a boost on Thursday night as David Backes draws back into the lineup with Boston aiming to knot their second-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets at two games apiece.
Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed at the team's pregame skate that Backes would start alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on Boston's second line, with Karson Kuhlman as the odd-man out up front.
The hope for the Bruins is that Backes' large frame and toughness can help make a mark on the Blue Jackets, particularly as a net-front nuisance in front of Sergei Bobrovsky. Boston will also draw on the veteran forward's leadership qualities in the dressing room and on the bench.
Video: Backes talks about possible return to lineup
"He brings a lot, a lot of the intangibles that we don't always see, whether it's in the locker room or the energy on the bench or even on the ice, the way that he competes. He's a big body that will create a lot for us," said Patrice Bergeron, who will have Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak back by his side on the B's top line.
Everything else you need to know ahead of Game 4 (7:30 ET on NBCSN and 98.5 The Sports Hub):
Plenty at Stake
The Bruins know how pivotal Game 4 will be in determining the outlook of the series. A win ties things up with the series headed back to Boston, while a loss will put them on the brink of elimination.
As such, the Bruins are drawing on their experience from the first round when they responded with a 6-4 victory in Game 4 in Toronto to even their series with the Maple Leafs.
"We went through it a couple weeks ago, we were down," said Cassidy. "I think our guys will be ready. We're a resilient group. I don't want to say it's do or die because it's not, but clearly you don't want to go down two. I think that's evident. I think our guys understand what's at stake.
"If you look at it, it's just one game. If it goes our way it's a best two out of three series and you have home-ice advantage. That's a good spot to be in, but our focus is going to stay on tonight's game.
"But that's what's at stake if we win, which is a much better scenario than being down two. It's as simple as we can make it and I think we'll be ready."
Video: Bruins, Blue Jackets ready for Game 4
The Bruins have not had much trouble with their first periods through three games against Columbus, jumping out to 1-0 leads after the opening 20 minutes in Games 1 and 2. Boston also surged early in Game 3, creating a number of opportunities, before a late goal gave Columbus a 1-0 advantage into the intermission.
While the starts have been sufficient, the Bruins - as has been the case for much of the series - have been unable to build on their success, while struggling to cash in on their chances. Boston is hoping to change that in Game 4.
"Overall, if we can have that same start and put it together over a full 60, if not more, then I think that will go well [for us]," said Brandon Carlo.
"That's what we're trying to accomplish," added Bergeron. "Get a fast start, but also getting some results would benefit for sure…it's about making sure we take it to them and play our style of hockey."
Video: Bergeron speaks ahead of Game 4
Finding A Way
One way to break through the wall that has been the Columbus net thus far in the series? Plenty of volume.
"We need to just be persistent as far as getting pucks to the net. Every goalie can be beaten, [they're] all human," Charlie McAvoy said of the Bruins' approach against Bobrovsky. "We've just got to make sure that we're funneling pucks and not turning down shot opportunities and we're shooting to score. I think a large quantity of shots could be our thing.
"Just keep shooting, no shot is a bad shot in this situation. We just need to make sure that we're simplifying our game. That's really all we're worried about."
Video: Cassidy speaks ahead of Game 4
Toe to Toe
Not to be overlooked, given the success of Bobrovsky, is the play of Tuukka Rask. Boston's ace netminder has been, arguably, the Bruins' most consistent performer throughout the postseason.
"I think he's been rock solid," said Cassidy. "He's one of the reasons we're still playing. Right now, we need him to be probably as solid as he can be until we start getting to the back of the net."
Rask is third in the NHL with a 2.22 goals against average and fourth with a .928 save percentage in the postseason.
"He gives me confidence playing in front of him that he's going to make those saves," said Carlo. "As long as we limit the shots to the outside and don't give them those key opportunities right in front of the net, I have a lot of confidence that he's going to stop the puck every time.
"I love the way that he plays and I love the way that his confidence works its way outwards to the defensemen and through the forwards."
Video: Carlo speaks to media ahead of Game 4
Thursday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Backes
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
Scratches: Steven Kampfer, Karson Kuhlman, John Moore, and Chris Wagner