Boston Bruins

Steven Kampfer of the Boston Bruins skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 21, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. The Bruins defeated the Devils 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Steven Kampfer of the Boston Bruins skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 21, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. The Bruins defeated the Devils 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Bruins will have to begin the Eastern Conference Finals without Charlie McAvoy, perhaps their best defenseman in the playoffs so far. Wednesday’s practice gave a strong indication of who’s going to replace him.

Steven Kampfer is likely to slide in for the suspended McAvoy when Boston takes on the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 on Thursday at TD Garden. Head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after the morning skate that John Moore is also a possibility to replace McAvoy in Game 1, and will make a final decision on Thursday.

But it’s Kampfer who got the higher spot on the Bruins’ practice lines on Wednesday, ostensibly making him the frontrunner to play against Carolina. Here were the main forward groups and defensive pairings on Wednesday, per the Bruins’ Twitter account:

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 led the way in goal, as expected. Backes continues to get run with the second line after playing well in that spot over the last three games against the Blue Jackets. Backes scored a goal and two assists while dishing out 11 hits as the B’s won three in a row to eliminate Columbus in in six.

As for the defense, it appears that Connor Clifton will take over on Zdeno Chara’s right side. Kampfer would pair with Matt Grzelcyk. According to Matt Porter of the Boston Globe, Kampfer also took McAvoy’s spot on the second power play unit.

Ultimately, missing Game 1 isn’t as much of a detriment as sitting out for a more crucial game in the series. But the impact of losing McAvoy for Kampfer can’t be understated. Kampfer won’t come close to replacing the offensive creativity and two-way ability that McAvoy was bringing on a consistent basis.

The hope for the B’s is that their forward groups control the pace and the defense simply plays solidly in its own end to get through Game 1 against Carolina. The Canes’ speed and skill won’t make that an easy task.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.