BOSTON -- With Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final still days away and Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final slipping further into the rearview, the Boston Bruins aren't content to sit around and wait for the next game on the schedule.
Instead, they're scheduling their own.
The Bruins will split into two teams for an intrasquad scrimmage at TD Garden on Thursday. It's one they hope will get them back in the game mindset, the game shape that they will need four days later when they host Game 1 of the Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS). By the time it arrives, it will be 11 days since the Bruins last played a game.
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"We're trying to simulate a game situation, going to the rink, preparing for the game day," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Listen, I don't know at the end of the day how everything's going to play out until Game 1 happens. We had some ideas we bandied around and came up with this one."
Unlike the scrimmage held by the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 22 between the first and second round, the Bruins are trying to make the simulation as real as possible. The Blue Jackets scrimmaged on a Monday morning. The Bruins will hold an optional morning skate Thursday and play a 7 p.m. game before a ticketed audience at TD Garden.
Still, there will be modifications. The Bruins do not have enough players for two full teams even with the Black Aces, those recalled from the minors for a parent team's playoff run, so Team White and Team Black will have three lines and five or six defensemen. There will be two 25-minute periods and two referees. The net proceeds from ticket sales ($20 per ticket) will benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation and all kids will receive free popcorn.
One of the biggest concerns for the Bruins is physicality. They want the players to get something out of it, but also want them also to remain healthy in advance of the biggest games of the season. That's a message they will relay especially to the young players and Black Aces.
"Obviously talked to the players about the physicality part," Cassidy said. "We're looking for compete, we're looking for pace, we're not looking for guys to blow each other up."
The Bruins will be looking to practice particular scenarios, power plays, 4-on-4 situations and perhaps a 6-on-5 at the end of the game, no matter the score. They want to split the difference between a practice and an actual game, getting in the work they need while still creating the aura of actual game conditions.
Though it's not the primary reason for the scrimmage, it will also allow the coaching staff and management to get their eyes on the Black Aces in case there's an injury in the Cup Final that necessitates using an unfamiliar piece. But mostly it's about getting the regulars back to where they were during a four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
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Cassidy anticipates defenseman Zdeno Chara, who missed Game 4 of the conference final, being ready to play. But he doesn't know whether others, goalie Tuukka Rask in particular, will play for the entirety of the session. That could be up to the individual players.
"At the end of the day, we're looking to recreate some game situations and have them come to the rink … and start getting back into that mode," Cassidy said.
That will start with the optional morning skate. If the Blues win Game 6, setting the matchup for the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins may start some video work on the Blues, particularly on special teams. Otherwise, they'll use that time to go over the basics for the players to get on the ice if they want to.
Then the Bruins will head to TD Garden, where Cassidy anticipates them having something more than pride to play for.
"They will put something on the line," he said. "That's something I'll have to discuss with them. I think that's important. What it is could be something very minimal or whatever they want to decide."
Ultimately, it's about getting ready for Game 1. The Bruins don't know if it'll work, but they are willing to try anything given the unusual scenario they're in.
"I don't know if it'll have an effect, I really don't," Cassidy said. "But it's something we're trying that hopefully because we're getting closer, guys realize, hey, it's not that far off instead of thinking about, oh, this big break, 10 days. Now it's right around the corner."
Listen: Stanley Cup Final preview from NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast