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Conference Final

Bruins not worried about playing Game 1 against Hurricanes without McAvoy

Group effort needed after defenseman suspended for opener of Eastern Conference Final

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins hardly seem ruffled by the news that Charlie McAvoy, arguably their best defenseman through two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will not be available for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

With the news that McAvoy is suspended for the first game against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), the Bruins simply shifted their group of defensemen around and gave a collective shrug.

"We don't ask too much of those players, other than -- hey -- you're the next guy in," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Do what you do best. Do your job. And hopefully we put them in a good position to do that, not ask them to get out of [their] comfort zone.

"At the end of the day we're going to need a good solid performance by all six of those defensemen. We're not going to ask Connor Clifton or [Steven Kampfer] to go in and do what Charlie does. But each guy on that blue line is going to have to elevate a little bit."

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

Kampfer will take McAvoy's spot in the lineup, Cassidy confirmed on Thursday, and Clifton likely will slide into McAvoy's usual spot alongside Zdeno Chara on the top defense pairing.

Using Kampfer over John Moore -- the two options Cassidy had at his disposal with Kevan Miller injured (lower body) -- gives the Bruins three righties and three lefties on defense. Kampfer played in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, while Moore played in four of the games in that series.

That allows Torey Krug, who Cassidy praised for his defensive performance against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round, to remain with Brandon Carlo on the second pairing.

Cassidy, though, is never shy about mixing his lines and pairings, so it is likely that the pairings that begin the game might change before the final buzzer, including the possibility that Matt Grzelcyk could jump up to play with Chara.

And it's clear that the forward group will be focusing on helping its teammates on defense, something the Bruins -- in particular -- are keen on doing no matter what, but which will be especially important with McAvoy, who has six points (one goal, five assists) while averaging 24:46 of ice time in 13 playoff games, out.

"You can't replace what he brings," forward Brad Marchand said. "I don't think you try to. I think you just -- regardless of who is on the ice -- you expect each other and expect ourselves to do our job. So it'll be a little different, I think, at times. But we still have a lot of great guys and a lot of great players. You expect to do the job and we expect to have a good game."

Video: Don Sweeney talks of the Bruins' success thus far

McAvoy, meanwhile, expressed disappointment about not being available for Game 1 after his illegal check to the head of Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson in Game 6 of the second round resulted in the first supplemental discipline of his NHL career.

"I respect the process," McAvoy said. "I respect their decision and I'm just disappointed that I won't be playing in Game 1. That being said, I have complete faith in this team to go out and play our game in Game 1.

McAvoy believes that he and the Bruins put forth a good case to the NHL Department of Player Safety, explaining his actions, but as he put it, "I'm not a very good lawyer, I guess."

As for McAvoy's return in Game 2, he is committed to being the same type of player that he was before the suspension.

"I can't change the kind of player I am," he said. "I don't think I'm a dirty player by any means. I think this was merely just a tough circumstance. I was trying to deliver a legal check. I felt that for the most part I did get a really good amount of body, a healthy amount of body. I thought it was a full-body check and this is just something I'm going to have to serve it and I respect their decision."

With that decision, McAvoy will spend Game 1 on the 9th floor ofTD Garden, watching alongside the scratches, injured players and the media, unable to help the Bruins. He'll be watching Kampfer -- or possibly Moore -- slot into his place in the lineup, and he believes that the defense can be just as effective without him. He's seen it happen, given that he missed 28 games in the regular season.

"We have a really good next-man-up approach," McAvoy said. "Everybody pulls on the rope. I know I can speak for everybody. We have a lot of faith in each other and whoever slots in tomorrow, they're going to get the job done. I have complete faith in that. I know I'm not the only one.

"I'm disappointed. I would love to be out there tomorrow. I was planning on being out there tomorrow. But that being said, I have a ton of faith in this team to go out and get the ball rolling here in the right way. And then when Game 2 comes around, I'm going to do whatever it takes to help us out."

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