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With Preseason Nearing End, Evaluations Will Change

Systems and line combinations will take precedent over indvidual performances

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - At this point of the preseason, Bruce Cassidy is not expecting many surprises. For the most part, the Bruins bench boss knows what he has to work with.

While a few difficult roster decisions remain, Cassidy will use the final two exhibition games more for an evaluation of the team's systems and line combinations than any individual performances.

"Our strongest lineup, I think it's fair to say, probably the closest to what it's going to look like," Cassidy said referring to Thursday night's exhibition game with the Flyers in Philadelphia. "I don't think I need to personally evaluate [Patrice Bergeron] - of course [Anders] Bjork and [Jake] DeBrusk. Now it's about how's that line looking? How's our neutral zone, we've made some tweaks to it. Are we susceptible to odd-man rushes or are we re-loading and replacing well, reading off one another.

"Those are definitely some issues you look at it. Defensive zone, are we closing quick enough? Are we switching off in lines, reading off each other enough? And then there still is some evaluation of individuals. There's probably still four to five guys we need to keep an eye on."

With the majority of Boston's regular lineup set to take the ice against the Flyers, David Backes believes the contest will have more of a regular-season feel.

"Tonight's a game that we want to show that we've improved every game," said Backes. "We've got a lot of the regulars in the lineup, we're going into a hostile environment, got to do it on the road, got to do it when you don't have the matchups that you would choose every shift.

"We've had up-tempo practices, we've had a great camp, now we've got to go out there and show that we're ready to go."

Chara Eager to Get Going

Zdeno Chara did not travel to Philadelphia for Thursday night's exhibition game with the Flyers. Chara instead skated with a select group of players at Warrior Ice Arena.

The captain, who returned to the ice on Wednesday after missing time with an illness, said he would leave it up to the coaching staff to determine whether he suits up again during the preseason.

"I'm feeling much better and if the coaching staff feels like they need me to play, I'll be ready to play," said Chara. "For some reason, if they need to take a look at other options, other combinations or pairings, it's obviously up to them to decide."

Video: Zdeno Chara speaks to the media

Challenging Situation

Cassidy admitted he has never been a huge fan of the coach's challenge, with the belief that it slows down the game. But he is encouraged by the steps the National Hockey League took this week to implement a minor penalty for any unsuccessful challenge. Cassidy believes the possibility of a penalty may cut down on the amount that coaches opt to have an offside reviewed.

"Wasn't a huge fan," said Cassidy. "If they're going to punish you for challenging a play and getting it wrong, hopefully they give you the appropriate amount of time so you at least get an accurate read from your video guy."

Select Group

A limited number of players took the ice at Warrior Ice Arena for a skills session on Thursday morning.

Forwards: Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Peter Cehlarik, Riley Nash, Teddy Purcell, Tim Schaller, and Ryan Spooner.

Defensemen: Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, and Emil Johansson (red non-contact).  

Goalies: Anton Khudobin and Malcolm Subban.

Subban was the only member of the group to travel to Philadelphia and will backup Tuukka Rask. Khudobin returned to the ice after missing Wednesday's session with a lower-body injury.

Tonight's Projected Lineup

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Anders Bjork
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano - Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson - David Backes
Kenny Agostino - Sean Kuraly - Danton Heinen

Rob O'Gara - Brandon Carlo
Paul Postma - Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller - Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk

Tuukka Rask
Malcolm Subban

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