By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins superstar David Pastrnak may not be the only boost to the Bruins’ lineup this week, with defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who missed last Saturday’s meeting with the Flyers due to a lower-body injury, back on the ice and considered a game-time decision for Tuesday’s start of a two-game set with the Penguins.
“[Grzelcyk] felt good today,” B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Not 100 percent but [it was his] first time on the ice in a few days, maybe that’s to be expected. We’ll see. I suspect he’s very close.”
Injured in last Monday’s loss on Long Island, and then again in Thursday’s comeback win over the Flyers (though the B’s thought they were in the clear), Grzelcyk has taken an absolute pounding this season.
But when on the ice, Grzelcyk has been among the league’s most effective presences in terms of driving play in the offensive zone, with his on-ice Corsi-For percentage of 65.05 percent tops among a group of 161 NHL defensemen with at least 50 five-on-five minutes this season.
If Grzelcyk is unable to go, Connor Clifton will remain in action and to the left of Brandon Carlo on Boston’s second pairing. Clifton totaled four hits and a blocked shot in 18:12 in his season debut last Saturday.
That’ll also leave the Bruins’ other pairings — with Jeremy Lauzon with Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Miller with Jakub Zboril — untouched after Zboril recorded his first NHL point in last weekend’s blowout win over the Flyers. Zboril, who has been fed offensive-zone starts and looked to be developing more offensive confidence with each effort, was called a “surprise” by Cassidy in the sense that the B’s truly didn’t know if he was ready for the chance to be a full-time NHL player, even five years after being selected with the No. 13 overall pick.
“I knew my position [and] I knew what I was supposed to do,” Zboril said of his 2021 start. “So since the first game, I’ve grabbed the chance and done what I was told to do: Be clean with the puck, defend hard, and the offense will come by itself.
“I’m just doing what I’m told and having a blast right now.”
Tuukka Rask will get the start in the Boston net. Rask made 22 saves in a shootout win over the Flyers last Thursday, and is off a 2-1-0 start with a better-than-it-looks .892 save percentage. Rask also comes into action with a 10-6-3 record and .917 save percentage in 19 career starts against Pittsburgh.
The Penguins will counter with Tristan Jarry. The 25-year-old Jarry has a 2-2-0 record and .850 save percentage on the season, but has rattled off two straight victories, stopping five of his last 60 shots thrown his way after beginning his season with two straight losses to the Flyers. Jarry will look to end what’s been some brutal struggles against the Bruins in his career, is 0-3-1 with an .871 in five career games against Boston.
The Bruins enter this contest with eight straight home victories against the Penguins.
Here’s the complete expected lineup for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Jack Studnicka
Trent Frederic – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Anders Bjork – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Jeremy Lauzon – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo
Jakub Zboril – Kevan Miller