BOSTON -- It has been a familiar refrain throughout the 2018-19 season for the Boston Bruins: With one defenseman or multiple defensemen out of the lineup, it's time for another one to slot in, to make up for the absence, to allow the team to move on as seamlessly as possible.
When the Bruins play at the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), they could be without third-pair defenseman Matt Grzelcyk.
Although Grzelcyk, whose head went into the boards on a hit by Oskar Sundqvist at 17:54 of the first period in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2 on Wednesday that evened the best-of-7 series, has not officially been ruled out for Game 3, coach Bruce Cassidy said he was in the NHL concussion protocol and would not travel with the team to St. Louis on Thursday. (Sundqvist was suspended for Game 3 by the NHL Department of Player Safety for boarding.)
That leaves either John Moore or Steven Kampfer to fill in for Grzelcyk if he is unable to play.
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"When we have a further update, we'll give it to you," Cassidy said. "We're going to list him as day to day."
Moore would seem to be the more likely candidate to replace Grzelcyk. Like Grzelcyk, Moore is a left-handed shot and could play with Connor Clifton on the third pair to keep the rest of the defensemen in the pairs they've been in throughout much of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Moore has played five playoff games, most recently against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 16, when Zdeno Chara was out with an injury. Moore also played four games in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs but does not have a point. Kampfer has played two games in the playoffs, in Game 1 against Carolina when Charlie McAvoy was suspended for a hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson, and in Game 3 against the Maple Leafs.
This season has been one when the Bruins have constantly had defensemen in and out of the lineup, so it's nothing new for them. They have been without Kevan Miller for the entire postseason and were without many of their key pieces at key times in the regular season.
Brandon Carlo led Bruins defensemen in games played in the regular season (72). Grzelcyk played in 66, followed by Torey Krug (64), Chara (62), Moore (61), McAvoy (54), Miller (39), Kampfer (35), Clifton (19), Jeremy Lauzon (16), and Jakub Zboril and Uhro Vaakanainen (two each).
So they know something about making do.
"The partner chemistry I think this year, as a result of a lot of guys getting out of the lineup, that part I think we can overcome," Cassidy said after Game 2. "Guys are used to playing with different guys."
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But losing Grzelcyk, in particular, means losing a player who can move the puck, who can be a key cog on the power play, in addition to the steady defensive presence he's provided in the playoffs. As Cassidy said, "[He's a] guy that can break down a forecheck when he's on, and that was clearly a strength of theirs [in Game 2] and a weakness of ours breaking pucks out."
That is something that will have to be addressed in Game 3, especially with the difference in skill set that Moore or Kampfer brings, as opposed to Grzelcyk.
But it won't only be the defensemen who are tasked with replacing him.
As has been the case all season for the Bruins, the forwards will be expected to chip in to make up the difference. Boston breeds defensively responsible forwards, led by Patrice Bergeron's top line, and they will have to be aware of the expectations as they try to continue to contain the Blues, especially the dangerous Brayden Schenn line.
"As a forward group, you need to get back and try to help out," Bergeron said. "I think in this particular series, St. Louis is really good on the forecheck. They're coming fast and hard, so you need to make sure you buy some time for them. So that's always been the motto, but obviously it's always the same when you play together, you play as a team."
That will continue to be the case on Saturday, assuming Grzelcyk will not be able to play in Game 3. It will be Moore or Kampfer -- and the Bruins will expect nothing less than they've gotten all season.
"Next man up, we've done that a lot this year," Cassidy said. "I hate to lose a guy, but if that ends up being the case, then one of those two goes in."
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