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5 Keys: Hurricanes at Bruins, Game 1

Aho must reach next level for Carolina; Boston without suspended defenseman McAvoy

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

HURRICANES at BRUINS

8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

The Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes will play Game 1 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final at TD Garden on Thursday.

Boston defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Eastern Conference Second Round to reach the conference final for the first time since 2013. Carolina swept the New York Islanders in the second round to advance to the conference final for the first time since 2009.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

That was the last time the Hurricanes qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the last time they faced the Bruins in the postseason.

The Bruins and Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers have met four previous times in the playoffs. Boston won the first three series -- the 1990 and 1991 Adams Division Semifinals against Hartford and the 1999 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Carolina. Carolina defeated Boston in seven games in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:

 

1. Get back in the groove

That won't be as much of a challenge for the Bruins, who eliminated the Blue Jackets with a 3-0 win in Game 6 on Monday. The Hurricanes, who have won six straight games, have been off since a 5-2 victory against the Islanders in Game 4 on May 3 and know it will be important for them to shake off the rust quickly.

Carolina saw how difficult that was for New York after it swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and was off for 10 days before playing Game 1 of the second round April 26. The Hurricanes jumped into that series two days after Game 7 of the first round against the Washington Capitals on April 24.

"We just had a couple days now in practicing," Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "We're going to have to get right back into game mode right away. That will be our challenge, I think, and hopefully we can do it."

Video: Bruins, Hurricanes tangle in Eastern Conference Final

 

2. Replacing Charlie McAvoy

The Bruins defenseman was suspended one game for an illegal check to the head of Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson in Game 6 of the second round. McAvoy has been a big part of Boston's playoff success, averaging a team-high 24:26 of ice time playing on the right side in the top defense pair with Zdeno Chara at even strength and contributing on the power play and penalty kill.

It appears rookie Connor Clifton will take McAvoy's spot playing with Chara. Steven Kampfer, who hasn't played since Game 3 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, will likely fill in for him on the second power-play unit.

"I think you're going to see some different pairings tonight depending on the circumstances," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.

 

3. Last change on home ice

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour would like to get center Jordan Staal and the defense pair of Jaccob Slavin and Hamilton on the ice against the Bruins' top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak as much as possible. But having home-ice advantage and the last change before face-offs will help Cassidy keep Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak away from that matchup, when he wants.

The Hurricanes' second defense pair of Brett Pesce and Justin Faulk isn't a big drop-off from Slavin and Hamilton but avoiding Staal's size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and strength in the middle will be an advantage for the Bruins.

 

4. Power up

The Bruins are an NHL-best 28.6 percent (10-for-35) on the power play in the playoffs, but those numbers are misleading because they went 3-for-19 (15.8 percent) in the second round with two of those goals coming in a 4-1 win in Game 4.

There is nothing deceiving about Carolina's 10.5 percent success rate (4-for-38) with the man-advantage. The Hurricanes were in a 0-for-23 drought before Sebastian Aho was credited with a power-play goal in Game 4 against the Islanders when New York's Adam Pelech shot the puck into his own net.

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm4: Bergeron cleans up rebound for PPG

 

5. Sebastian Aho

The Hurricanes center has nine points (four goals, five assists) through the first 11 playoff games but has another level to his game that he has yet to show in the postseason. Aho was dynamic in leading Carolina with 30 goals and 83 points during the regular season, including seven points (four goals, three assists) in three games against Boston, and needs to be that player in the conference final. 

Learning to deal with difficult matchups in the playoffs might be a factor, but Aho also might be playing through an undisclosed injury. After leading the Hurricanes by taking 1,204 face-offs during the regular season and 63 draws in his first five playoff games, Aho has taken 30 in his past six games and won nine of them (30 percent). Maybe five days without playing a game will help.

 

Hurricanes projected lineup

Andrei Svechnikov -- Sebastian Aho -- Teuvo Teravainen

Nino Niederreiter -- Jordan Staal -- Justin Williams

Warren Foegele - Lucas Wallmark -- Brock McGinn

Jordan Martinook -- Greg McKegg -- Micheal Ferland

Jaccob Slavin -- Dougie Hamilton

Brett Pesce -- Justin Faulk

Haydn Fleury -- Calvin de Haan

Petr Mrazek

Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Saku Maenalanen (upper body), Trevor van Riemsdyk (left shoulder)

Scratched: Jake Bean, Patrick Brown

 

Bruins projected lineup

Brad Marchand -- Patrice Bergeron -- David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk -- David Krejci -- David Backes

Marcus Johansson -- Charlie Coyle -- Danton Heinen

Joakim Nordstrom -- Sean Kuraly -- Chris Wagner

Zdeno Chara -- Connor Clifton

Torey Krug -- Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk -- Steven Kampfer

Tuukka Rask

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Zane McIntyre, Karson Kuhlman, John Moore

Injured: Kevan Miller (lower body), Noel Acciari (upper body)

Suspended: Charlie McAvoy

 

Status report

Brind'Amour would not reveal whether Mrazek, who hasn't played since sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 2 of the second round, or McElhinney will start. … Ferland (upper body) will take warmups, and Brind'Amour said he's hopeful he'll play for the first time since Game 3 of the first round. … Maenalanen skated on his own Thursday and might be ready to play later in the series. … Acciari will miss his third straight game and remains day to day.

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