BOSTON - Bruce Cassidy is making a couple of tweaks to his lineup as the Bruins open up the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday night.
With the Columbus Blue Jackets expected to play a bit heavier style than the Maple Leafs, Boston's bench boss is turning back to Chris Wagner and Connor Clifton. Wagner will sub in for Karson Kuhlman as the Bruins' third-line right wing, while Clifton will take the place of John Moore on Boston's third defense pairing.
Cassidy did say that Moore is battling with a bit of an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
"I don't think it will be long, so Clifton's going in there. Wagner is just a lineup decision," Cassidy said following Thursday's morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena.
Wagner, who was a healthy scratch for the final two games of the Toronto series, said that the lower-body injury that hampered him over the final days of the regular season was not a factor in his struggles against the Maple Leafs.
"I wouldn't say that was an excuse in Games 1 through 5 anyways. I feel good," said Wagner. "You obviously don't want to watch Games 6 and 7, but it is what it is. We're moving on and getting ready for Columbus."
Video: Wagner to return to the lineup Thursday night
While Cassidy is banking on Wagner's physicality being a factor, the winger will not play in his familiar fourth-line roll. Wagner will instead play alongside Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson on a line that is expected to bring a tad more offensively.
"No offense to Sean [Kuraly] or [Joakim Nordstrom] or [Noel Acciari], but probably a little more skill, a bit more line-rush than anything," Wagner said of what's different on the third line. "But both ways are effective. Sean's line had a great game in Game 7. Just excited for the opportunity with them."
Cassidy believes that as the series goes on and the teams get a better feel for each other his lineup will become more solidified, but for now he is leaving open the possibility that everyone on the roster could see playing time.
"We want to balance that physicality versus foot speed, and as the series goes on, we'll see who best fits," said Cassidy. "We have some guys we know we can move in and out of the lineup. Every forward played in the last series, and that could very well happen again."
Clifton, meanwhile, suited up for the first two games against Toronto before suffering an upper-body injury late in Game 2. The rookie blue liner did not play again in the series, but said the effects of the injury did not last more than a few days.
"I was skating I think two days after, so my legs feel good," said Clifton. "[I feel] much better. Ready to go tonight. Really exciting, watched a couple games - the past five - the guys got it done, so I'm excited to get back tonight. It sucks watching games. You want to help, obviously. Anxious to get back in."
Video: Clifton to make return to the lineup
While the Blue Jackets have had nearly 10 days off following their sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins enter the series with less than 48 hours rest after their seven-game showdown with the Maple Leafs.
"There's not much time, but you try to prepare yourself as best as possible," said Jake DeBrusk. "The coaching staff gave us video to watch and try to understand what they want to do…last year we also had a quick turnaround with Tampa Bay and we went there. This time around we get to stay back home.
"I think that just helps with limiting travel and it's always nice to start a series off at home. That's what we work all year for to get those points."
Cassidy admitted he would have preferred to have one more day to prepare, but hopes that his team will take advantage of the adrenaline they built up after their Game 7 victory.
"If you could draw it up perfectly, I think if we started [Friday] it would have been the best scenario, so we get another day to take our breath, come in here today, get back into battle," said Cassidy. "You want to build off that high that you just came out of. You play the hand your dealt. I think our guys are good at that, got a veteran group. They're not going to worry about what could have or should of."
Video: Cassidy and team focused on Columbus
We Meet Again
The Bruins and Blue Jackets met three times over the final three weeks of the regular season, giving both teams a pretty good idea of what to expect from each other in this second-round series.
"I thought they were hard-fought battles," said DeBrusk. "They play a tough style, so they present a lot of challenges for us this time of year it's a different team. Everyone saw against Tampa how they played, what kind of problems they gave them. Give them a lot of credit. They're a good team and they're here for a reason."
With Columbus having won 11 of its last 12 dating back to the regular season and fresh off a four-game sweep of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Lightning in Round 1, Boston is well aware of the challenges that the Blue Jackets present.
"They just took out Tampa, so that will tell you all you need to know about how they're playing right now and how things are going in their locker room and how they feel about themselves," said Charlie McAvoy. "But with each round, each new opponent, comes a different challenge both for them and for us. We're looking forward to getting going. We're fresh right now where we just played.
"We're kind of in that rhythm right now of game, [day off]. Just keep that going right into Round 2…we've got another chance tonight to put our foot in the ground and hit the ground running here."
Video: McAvoy gives credit to Columbus for strong play
Miller Has Setback
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said on Wednesday that Kevan Miller had a setback with his upper-body injury and is considered week-to-week. The blue liner will not be ready for the start of the second round.
Thursday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Chris Wagner
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
Scratches: David Backes, Karson Kuhlman, John Moore, and Steven Kampfer.
Video: Ohio-native Kuraly looking forward to playing CBJ