That's the only word to describe Boston Bruins
coach Claude Julien
at Friday's press conference following the team's morning skate at Wachovia Center.
Julien was adamant in not revealing his lineup, let alone his lines and defense pairings, before the start of Game 4 of the Bruins' Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers
(7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).
Julien has two obvious holes to fill in his lineup -- replacing center David Krejci
, who suffered a season-ending dislocated right wrist in the team's win in Game 3, and replacing defenseman Adam McQuaid
, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game 3 and is out for Game 4.
The likely solution is to place center Marc Savard
in Krejci's spot between left wing Milan Lucic
and red-hot right wing Miroslav Satan
. That was one line at practice Friday. The top line of Patrice Bergeron
centering left wing Daniel Paille
and right wing Mark Recchi
Also Friday, Vladimir Sobotka
centered left wing Blake Wheeler
and right wing Michael Ryder
, while Trent Whitfield
centered Steve Begin
on his right and Brad Marchand
on his left.
Rugged right wing Shawn Thornton
didn't practice with the team, leading to speculation that Whitfield and Marchand might play in Game 4. But Julien told reporters Thornton "exercised his option" not to practice and is available to play in Game 4.
"He just exercised his option this morning," Julien said. "We'll leave it at that, but there shouldn't be any situation or any questions whether he'll be in tonight. He's fine."
Whitfield, 32, has 11 goals and 29 points in 193 NHL games with the Washington Capitals
, New York Rangers
, St. Louis Blues
and the Bruins over eight seasons.
He was the Bruins' fourth-round pick in 1996, but never played for them until this season, when he had 1 assist in 16 games.
Marchand, the Bruins' third-round pick in 2006, had 1 assist in 20 games for the Bruins this season. He has 31 goals and 91 points in 124 games the last two seasons with the AHL Providence Bruins.
"Here again, I think we've got some game-time decisions to make," Julien said. "I'm not saying (Whitfield's) not in. He will probably be in. Those things are going to be sorted out tonight because we do have some issues. Having said that, he's one of those guys who's got experience. He's been around. He brings grit. He can kill penalties. This is kind of what we're looking at right now.
"I mentioned (Thursday), we had five centermen in our lineup Wednesday and when we lost Krejci, that really bailed us out. Center is a pretty unique position to play. To put (Whitfield) in gives us five more centermen. We've got guys who play center who also play the wing, so we can move guys around. Right now, I think there's some versatility.
"At the same time, we like Marchand and what he brings. We'll make some game-time decisions tonight on who's in and who's out."
"I want to go out there and contribute in the playoffs," Whitfield said. "That's what everybody dreams about doing. I just want to go out there and play hard, play my game, just play solid defense and do everything they ask me.
"The intensity picks up in the playoffs. The first couple of shifts are going to be huge for me tonight. You know, either hit or be hit, as they say. Just kind of get myself into the game, get up to game speed. It's been a while. I'm excited to get in there."
Whitfield has a reputation for being a strong defensive player with good penalty-killing and faceoff skills. He said he likes the Bruins' defensive system but it's one that takes coordination between all five players on the ice.
"We play as a five-man unit all over the ice," Whitfield said. "Guys buy into it and we play hard together. That's the key to any system you want to play, if guys play hard and together, it will be effective and it's been effective for us."
Meanwhile, defenseman Mark Stuart
continued to look good in morning practices and told reporters that he had received medical clearance to play in Game 4.
Julien confirmed that fact, but reserved the right to make a game-time decision on Stuart.
"He's feeling much better," Julien said. "He's been cleared medically to play, if need be. So now it's one of those decisions that we have to make and a game-time decision will be made on his case. "
Stuart said he expects the Flyers to play with more desperation, with a lot more crashing of Tuukka Rask
"Or maybe there will be a lot less of that because you're in there?" the muscular 6-foot-3, 213-pound Stuart was asked.
"I'll just try to bring what I usually do," Stuart said. "Just try to play physical within a good defensive game. Move the puck up to our forwards. If I do get in tonight, it will probably be pretty simple. Play a simple game."
Contact John McGourty at firstname.lastname@example.org