The 2018 Boston Bruins Playoffs are presented by JetBlue
BOSTON - Over an 82-game regular-season grind, the Bruins have faced a bevy of injuries up and down the lineup. Ranging from first-line center, to top-pairing defensemen, to both goaltenders, the Black & Gold have overcome the injury-bug to record the fourth-best record in the National Hockey League.
As the Stanley Cup Playoffs approach, the B's will be missing only defenseman Brandon Carlo (out 3-4 months with a fractured ankle) and Riley Nash, who has missed the previous five games with an ear laceration suffered March 31 against the Florida Panthers.
Nash has served as the team's third line center for the majority of the season, with a brief stint centering the B's top line while Patrice Bergeron recovered from a fracture in his foot. In 76 games, the Alberta native set career highs in goals (15), assists (26), points (41), plus/minus (+16) and average TOI (15:25). Without Nash, the Bruins finished the season with a 1-3-1 record.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy announced after practice Wednesday that the team will be without the 28-year-old's services to begin the playoffs.
"He's out [Thursday]," said Cassidy. "[He] worked out today, will skate tomorrow, but won't play tomorrow. Saturday [has] potential but we'll see how he progresses."
Video: Cassidy gives updates on the injuries and lineup
The team has missed his stable presence on the third line.
"It hurts," said Cassidy on playing without Nash. "He's a guy that filled in a lot of different spots. The spot we need him in right now or where he would have been is third line center."
Cassidy noted the variety of roles that Nash has filled for the team over the course of the season.
"We lose a guy on the penalty kill that did a good job for us. A faceoff guy. I thought he was a good anchor on that line for [David] Backes and [Danton] Heinen…He's an underrated guy that does a lot of little things well that we'll miss."
The return of Nash later in the series would allow Cassidy to field an even more formidable four-line attack.
"Bergy is healthy," said Cassidy. "[David Krejci], if [Sean] Kuraly goes back into the fourth line, we have our center slotted in how we saw them when we were completely healthy."
With Nash still not quite ready to resume his third line center role, Cassidy's plan is to enlist Noel Acciari as his fill in.
"Noel goes in there, a different flavor," Cassidy said of the hard-nosed forward who played center at Providence College. "Noel has played lots of center, he'll share that responsibility with Backes as the game goes along. Backes might take the draws or play a little more if there is certain matchups. We're comfortable with the guy replacing Riley."
Acciari has spent time at center over the previous few games with both Riley Nash and Kuraly (upper-body injury) out with injury.
"The first couple games back at center, kind of just re-adjusting," said Acciari. "I thought I found my stride at center and at the right time, I guess, because I'm going to still play center.
"I'm very excited. Playoffs is the best time of the year and it's another level. It's going to be a lot of fun and we're all excited about it."
In his new role, Acciari is cognizant of his added responsibility.
"I have to be more cautious about being first in the zone offensively and trying to throw a big hit," said Acciari. "I have to be a little more defensive…Backes will help me out with that because he's played a lot of center in his career. We'll just be talking, and it should be good."
Marchand Faces Former Coach
When the Bruins take on the Maple Leafs, Brad Marchand will be facing a former coach. Toronto coach Mike Babcock has not guided Marchand in the NHL, but the two - as well as Patrice Bergeron - helped Team Canada to gold at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
"He's a great coach," said Marchand. "It's a very interesting system that they play. You can see why he's been successful everywhere he's been. It's a very, very hard system to play against. He expects a lot out of his players. Very demanding but he's a great coach to play for."
During the World Cup, Marchand played on a line with Bergeron and Sidney Crosby, and scored the game-winning goal in the gold medal game.
"I was very fortunate," said Marchand. "Maybe he was rolling the dice there. It worked. Very thankful for that opportunity. He knows what he's doing and luckily it clicked."
Now, Marchand finds himself at odds with Babcock in the playoffs.
"It was nice to get a taste of it, of his coaching style and the way he handles his team and everything for that week," said Marchand. "It's always been hard to play against, it always will be. That's why he's such a successful coach everywhere he goes. It's going to be a battle."
Video: Marchand discusses playoff opponent Toronto