BOSTON -- Charlie McAvoy will return to the Boston Bruins lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), but it has not been decided who he'll replace for Boston, which will try to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
The defenseman, suspended for Game 1 by the NHL Department of Player Safety because of an illegal check to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson in Game 6 of the second round, will play Sunday, which means either Steven Kampfer or Connor Clifton will not.
Each defenseman did his part to pick up the slack in McAvoy's absence during Game 1; Kampfer, playing his second career game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, scored the opening goal in the Bruins' 5-2 win and added two hits in 14:56 of ice time, mostly on the third defense pair with Matt Grzelcyk. Clifton, a rookie who had been previously skating on a defense pairing with Grzelcyk, moved up to play with captain Zdeno Chara on the first pair in McAvoy's place and had four hits and a blocked shot in 18:02 of ice time. Clifton has two assists in nine playoff games, averaging 12:19 of ice time.
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"I'll tell you right now, it's Kampfer or Clifton," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Friday. "We'll examine what's the best fit. They both played very well for us last night, so that's a good problem to have. I suspect Clifton will stay in, we like the job he's done. Charlie's definitely going to be on our second power play, so that's where Clifton kills [penalties] a little more than Kampfer, so you've got to balance special teams as well."
McAvoy's return should provide Boston a boost, but that doesn't mean it will take its Game 2 preparation lightly; the Hurricanes were resilient in the Eastern Conference First Round, winning Games 6 and 7 against the defending Cup champion Washington Capitals after being down 3-2 in the series. Carolina then swept the New York Islanders in the second round.
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"We always look at what we did well and try to use that moving forward," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "But we always realize that there are mistakes made and how we can clamp down on them. You know we strive for perfection every single game knowing we're not going to get it. But we try to get as close to it as possible. And defensively I think that's been the mojo or the swagger of this team for a long time, is how we can clamp down on the other team and you realize there's certain things that they do well, and they're going to make adjustments as well. That's just how coaching is these days in the NHL."
The Bruins, taking an advantage of the two-day break between Games 1 and 2, were off on Friday. They plan to have meetings, watch video and have an on-ice practice Saturday.
"There's always room to improve," Chara said. "Like I said last night, I think first games are usually kind of a testing ground a little bit. I think that you're watching the teams play in previous rounds, but every team plays a little bit differently when it comes to playing your team. So, I'm sure we're going to make some adjustments and they will do the same."
Boston needed seven games to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, and six to eliminate the Blue Jackets in the second round; the Bruins had two days off before the opener of the conference final.
"It helps us a lot I believe because of our seven- and six-game series," Cassidy said. "It was good to get right back at it last night, I think it showed in our start, we were ready to go. … if you're going to get a day off in the middle of the series, I think for us, between Game 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 would have been ideal for us, it happened to be 1 and 2."
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