BOSTON, MA - The Bruins are set to face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in a pivotal Game 4 at TD Garden tonight. Every game is important, yes, but so far this postseason, no match-up has been more significant than tonight.
A win for the Bruins helps them maintain home-ice advantage and take a 3-1 series lead, while the Blackhawks are hoping to steal a victory from the Garden crowd and head back to their own barn with the series knotted at 2-2.
Both teams held their respective pregame skates Wednesday morning in preparation for the night's battle. The Bruins' lineup appeared to be the same as in Game 3. For the Blackhawks, Marian Hossa - a surprise scratch last game - is expected to be back in their lineup, alongside Patrick Sharp and Michal Handzus (see below for projected lineups).
"They're going to come out hard, it's a real big game for both teams," said Bruins' defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "The first goal is going to be huge, so I definitely expect a big push from the start."
"I think we need to come out and play a consistent 60, starting with the first period and go from there," said center Chris Kelly.
Even with their shutdown performance in Game 3 - and Tuukka Rask serving up his third career postseason shutout with 28 saves - the Bruins are looking to improve.
"You can always be a bit better," said Kelly, who has been happy to find success with Daniel Paille and Tyler Seguin the past two games. "There’s certain aspects of the game where you look back and you want to be better at, but I think on the whole we’re playing pretty well."
"It only really matters what you bring to the next game. We don’t want to sit on what we’ve done in the past."
"Every game gets more and more important. That’s the case tonight. We know they’re going to play hard and come out well," Kelly added. "We need to worry about ourselves. We can’t really focus on what they’re going to bring."
For the Bruins, it's about having the awareness of what Chicago will bring, but mainly focusing on their own game and buying into their game plan as they have for the past five periods of action.
"I think tonight will probably be one of the toughest games of the series," Seguin told reporters pregame. "Obviously Chicago’s here for a reason. We’re expecting nothing less than them coming out flying, so I think we need to be ready for that, especially in our own building."
On the Blackhawks' side, they're approaching tonight as a must-win scenario.
"It’s the biggest game of the year. I think we all know that in here and we are excited about the challenge," said Hawks forward Patrick Kane pregame. "They took one in our building. We’re going to try to steal one here too. It’s a tough place to play, but it’s exciting too. It was a fun game last game and things really didn’t turn out our way."
"Try to create some more chances, get some more pucks at the net, and try to get that early goal, get an early lead and hopefully take the crowd out of it."
"I know this is an important game," added Chicago forward Bryan Bickell. "For me and a lot of guys, this is the biggest game in our lives. Being 2-2 going back home, having the momentum would be huge, but being down 3-1 it’s going to be a whole, big effort. We are just going to take it a period at a time, bring our speed which we’ve been talking about a lot and we just need to bring it every shift."
Everyone, from players to media to fans, can feel the intensity ramp up from game to game, especially in the Stanley Cup Final - and tonight should be no different.
"I think it increases throughout the whole playoffs, every series, every game," said Patrice Bergeron, of the intensity.
"Same thing this series, I think it’s going to increase and get even tougher. We’re expecting a really tough game tonight, a big game. We need to be ready for that."
"We know they’re going to come out hard. They’re a great team. They have a lot of character, and so do we. I think at this stage it’s two great teams, and we know tonight’s game is going to be even tougher."
"So, we need to be ready for a big game."
Boston Projected Lineup
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Kaspars Daugavins-Rich Peverley-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Chicago Projected Lineup
Marian Hossa was a surprise scratch for the Hawks on Monday night, with Ben Smith being inserted into the lineup in his place. Tonight, it's expected Hossa will be back in, alongside Sharp and Handzus (Jamal Mayers took Hossa's place during the team's pregame skate).
Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp-Michal Handzus-Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad-Andrew Shaw-Viktor Stalberg
Marcus Kruger-Dave Bolland-Michael Frolik
Dunan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson-Johnny Oduya
Nick Leddy-Michal Rozsival