BOSTON - The Bruins host the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at TD Garden, as they look to pick up their third straight win.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. ET with broadcast coverage on NBCSN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Frank Vatrano will not be suiting up against the Stars. The forward was absent from Thursday morning's pregame skate at Warrior Ice Arena due to a day-to-day, upper-body injury.
"Frankie, yesterday [on Wednesday] in practice, had a bit of an upper-body issue that will be day-to-day, so he's out tonight," Cassidy said after the skate. "I don't know anymore than that, I don't think it's serious, but he will miss tonight, and we'll see where he's at [on Friday]."
Matt Beleskey will slot into Vatrano's spot at left wing, with Ryan Spooner at center and Jimmy Hayes at right wing.
Drew Stafford will stay alongside David Krejci and David Pastrnak, with the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Backes trio staying in tact, along with the line of Dominic Moore, Riley Nash and Noel Acciari.
In the past three games, Nash's line has combined for 10 points, with Moore notching four assists, Nash putting up three goals and two assists, and Acciari scoring his first NHL goal.
"I think we want to continue to play on our toes, play aggressively," Moore said of his line. "We create turnovers that way, and as long as we're all supporting each other and reloading, we can continue to have good structure all over the ice."
Up front, Tim Schaller is progressing in his recovery from a lower-body injury suffered on March 8 against Detroit. He will miss his 10th game on Thursday night, though he has been participating in the Bruins' recent skates.
"He's ready for contract, he's in the next part of his process of getting ready to play," said Cassidy. "So he's able to take some contact now, we'll see how he handles that. If he's good with it, and wakes up tomorrow without any discomfort or pain, then the trainers would have to decide whether he's ready to go to the next level, which would be getting into game action."
"He's not cleared, and Saturday I guess we'll find out, or least have a better idea tomorrow after practice."
Liles Stays In
Defenseman John-Michael Liles slotted into the lineup on Tuesday night against Nashville for the first time since Feb. 26 in Dallas. He did not dress for 13 games during his time out of the lineup.
Liles logged 13:13 in ice time against the Predators, en route to a 4-1 Bruins' win.
"It's never easy, but it took a couple of shifts to work the lactic acid out of my legs a little bit and then I felt pretty good after that," said Liles. "And just tried to keep it simple for the most part and stick to my game, the strengths of my game, and the big thing was we got the win and hopefully we can continue that tonight."
"I thought he got back on pucks well, broke it out well, he was good with Kevan Miller, they complement each other well," Cassidy said of Liles. "He has worked hard to stay conditioned and to stay sharp to go into the lineup, so we're going to give him another chance."
Colin Miller will be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. He had previously suited up for 13 straight games before sitting out Tuesday night's game, with Liles getting back into action.
"He's young, but he's not Brandon Carlo young, he's played pro for three, four years, so part of it's understanding consistency every night and playing to his strengths, what we want out of him, and then balancing that with what Johnny gives us," Cassidy said of the decision to sit Colin. "And this time of the year - you always want your young players to feel these moments and play through them, but you've also got to balance your lineup, if another veteran guy you feel gives you the best shot to win tonight."
"So we're looking at both those things, and either way I hope that when Colin does come back in, he's better off for it, that's the plan, and in the meantime Johnny gives us good, solid minutes. That's the goal we want to achieve, and I guess time will tell if that's how it plays out."
Keeping to the Game Plan
Thursday night marks another critical game for the Bruins, who sit in the second Wild Card playoff spot. With the Metropolitan Division teams (Washington, Columbus, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers) all clinching playoff spots, the race is on for Toronto (87 points), Boston (86 points), Tampa Bay (83 points), New York Islanders (82 points) and Carolina (82 points) to finish strong.
"It's just about winning, and getting the points," said Stafford. "We want to put ourselves in a position where we control our fate and that's playing solid and continuing to keep this thing rolling. We're focused on ourselves, we're focused on our own game."
The Bruins found success on Saturday in Brooklyn against the Isles (2-1 win) and on Tuesday against Nashville (4-1). They need to carry over their strong defensive effort from Tuesday night.
"I think it's all about taking care of the puck through the neutral zone," said Staffod. "We've eliminated odd-man rushes and the turnovers and the sloppy play. When you play on the right side of the puck, we're the type of team - if we play that disciplined style of game, we can do some damage."
Projected Lineup vs. Dallas March 30
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Backes
Drew Stafford - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Jimmy Hayes
Dominic Moore - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles - Kevan Miller
Starting Goaltender: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Anton Khudobin
Projected Scratches: Joe Morrow, Colin Miller
Injured: Tim Schaller (lower-body, day-to-day), Frank Vatrano (upper-body, day-to-day)