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Bruins plan on revamped lineup for Winter Classic

by Matt Kalman

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – During the past five seasons the Boston Bruins have won some crucial games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs without key players available.

Those experiences should benefit the Bruins when they play in the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium on Friday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS) without injured center David Krejci and suspended forward Brad Marchand.

In 2011, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup despite losing forward Nathan Horton in Game 3 of the Final. In 2013, they reached the Final despite playing without half of their starting defense corps for much of the run.

"It's about everyone stepping up and helping out in whatever way possible," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said after practice at Gillette StadiUm on Thursday. "I think it's about playing your game and not trying to do too much and trying to be somebody you're not. If you're playing at your best, and we all do that, I think the guys that are stepping up to replace David and Brad are good enough players and great players to do the job, and that's how we have to approach it. Go out there [Friday] with the guys that we have and believe in ourselves and do the job."

Krejci was injured Sunday against the Ottawa Senators and has already missed one game. Marchand was suspended three games on Wednesday because of a clip on Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki on Tuesday.

When Krejci went down, coach Claude Julien made a couple minor tweaks to his lineup Tuesday. Marchand's departure has forced a more significant shakeup, based on the lines the Bruins used at practice Thursday.

Left-shooting forward Loui Eriksson moved from the right side of Ryan Spooner (Krejci's replacement) to Bergeron's left side in Marchand's usual spot. Seth Griffith, who was called up from Providence of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, was again was on Bergeron's right.

Despite Eriksson's rapport with Matt Beleskey, the Swede was the logical replacement for Marchand because of his two-way proficiency and his history, albeit brief, playing with Bergeron this season and last.

"I'm just going to try to do the same thing," Eriksson said. "He's a good player so hopefully we can have a good game together and play good. It'll be fun to see tomorrow and hopefully we'll have a good game."

To the right of Spooner and left wing Beleskey was Brett Connolly, who has moved around the lineup all season. He hasn't scored in 14 games, but said he's encourage by his recent chances (including a shot off the crossbar Tuesday). Connolly and Spooner played together a bit early in the season and during international play for Canada as teenagers.

"It'll be fun," Connolly said. "I think that we're comfortable with each other. It'll be good to play with those guys. Maybe find a spark. I think [Spooner]'s a guy I talked about the start of the year, he's a good passer and he's playing really good right now. So is [Beleskey], he's shooting the puck well. So hopefully we can have a good night and get at least one past their goalie."

Landon Ferraro centered Frank Vatrano and Alexander Khokhlachev, who was recalled Providence on Thursday. The only line to stay together from the Bruins' 7-3 win Tuesday featured Max Talbot centering Zac Rinaldo and Jimmy Hayes.

Teams with many changes to their lineup typically succeed better when they keep their game simple. Simplicity also comes in handy in the outdoor conditions of the Winter Classic. Those two factors might combine to assist the Bruins.

"You looked at the ice today; it wasn't the best in the corners there, so it's probably going to bounce around a little bit tomorrow," Eriksson said. "So hopefully we can figure out the game style to play a simple, hard game. And it's going to be the same for both teams so we have to maybe take advantage of their mistakes and really focus on not making that many mistakes."

For the Bruins, the Winter Classic is more than just a chance to play in the League's marquee event. They're playing against the Canadiens, their most bitter rival and a team that's one point ahead of them in the Atlantic Division standings. Considering the Bruins missed the playoffs last year by two points, the first time they have missed the postseason in eight years, they know all too well how important the two points can be come mid-April.

So they have to approach this game with the same mentality they would have if they were playing at TD Garden or Bell Centre.

"I mean, it's obviously one of the highlights of the season for the whole League, so it's a privilege and honor to be playing in this game," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "Again, it's one of those experiences you will always treasure and remember. But at the end of the day, it's business as usual."

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