By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
After missing Monday's practice with an "unfit to participate" designation, Bruins winger David Pastrnak and goaltender Tuukka Rask were both on the ice for an optional morning skate Tuesday, indicating that they will be good to go for tonight's Game 1 head-to-head with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now, their returns weren't exactly shocking. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said he expected them to be back with the team in short order (similar to what happened with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci last weekend), and they indeed were.
But what this does for the Bruins is give them their second straight contest with a fully healthy roster.
"This almost feels like a brand-new season for obvious reasons," Cassidy said after Tuesday's optional skate. "We have to prove it on the ice tonight. We feel there are certain areas that we can play well against [Carolina]. There are areas that we have to make sure we’re on the ball in terms of the pace of their game and their foot-speed and us getting back on pucks and supporting pucks so that we can play with the puck. And once we have it, we feel that there’s areas we can do some damage but until we get going here, who knows. That’s the gameplan and I think our guys are up for it."
That plan begins up top with Pastrnak to the right of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and with a second line that'll feature David Krejci between Ondrej Kase and Jake DeBrusk. (The latter duo got on the board in Sunday's loss to the Capitals, which could be the start of something real with the trio that wasn't able to get together during the regular season.)
Nick Ritchie, meanwhile, will remain on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork.
On the backend, Jeremy Lauzon will stay in the lineup and to the right of Matt Grzelcyk on Boston's third pair.
Following Sunday's game, Cassidy called Lauzon's round-robin efforts "OK," and with some capable and more experienced defenders (John Moore and Connor Clifton) behind him on the depth chart, it was worth wondering if Cassidy was going to make a switch for Game 1. But the B's bench boss isn't ready to throw out Lauzon's regular-season sample just yet.
"The way we finished the year, we’re not burying that part of the season," Cassidy offered. "[Clifton] played and Moore, one game. So probably made that decision coming out of training camp with how I allotted the ice time. At the end of the day, if we need to make a switch, we will. We just felt that gave us the best balance in our lineup of size and puck moving ability with Lauzy in there. I do believe the bigger guys needed a few more reps. He’s now been on the ice a little while. I thought was a little better against Washington. He settled in to his game. So that’s the decision behind it.
"I do have a lot of faith in Johnny and Cliffy if Lauzy is not up to the task or any one of the other D. But that’s what we’re going with tonight and feel that it’s going to give us a real good chance to win."
In net, Rask will begin yet another quest to finally seal the deal on a Stanley Cup victory as the Black and Gold's starter.
Rask came damn close a year ago, with 15 wins and a .934 save percentage in 24 games, but ultimately came up short in a team-wide Game 7 no-show. And while results eluded him in the round-robin play, Rask's puck-tracking seemed to be on point, with stops on 50-of-55 shots faced in his two starts.
Here's the complete expected lineup for the Bruins tonight...
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie - Charlie Coyle - Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.