Boston Bruins

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - JANUARY 18: Craig Smith #12 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on January 18, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders shut-out the Bruins 1-0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

Bruins winger Craig Smith has never seen a puck he didn’t want to fire on net.

“You can’t score if you don’t shoot,” Smith, who has goals in back-to-back games, said Thursday. “I try to pick my spots, and if I get time and space, I wanna rip it. It’s a simple game for me.”

And with the Bruins down yet another winger, that ‘simple’ game will lead Smith to the top of Boston’s forward group Thursday as the right winger on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

The Bruins’ top free agent add this past offseason, Smith got a little taste of the Boston’s one-two punch up top as a Jake DeBrusk fill-in on Tuesday, with over three and a half minutes of five-on-five time together. Their on-ice results were promising, too, as the Bruins held a 5-1 shots advantage and generated three scoring chances with the Marchand-Bergeron-Smith trio on the ice. And after a practice together, the 31-year-old wing certainly seems to have an idea for their style.

“Two great players, and just watching them the last couple of plays, taking it all in with practice and stuff, they play with a lot of tempo and I think it could be a great fit,” Smith offered. “I’m gonna try to get in there, do my best, have some fun, and use my legs to create.

“It should be a lot of fun tonight. We’ll let it rip.”

With Smith pulled away from Charlie Coyle, the Bruins have seemingly opted to go for a full-on power up to their top-six forward group, as Charlie Coyle will be moved from third-line center to second-line right wing out of “necessity” according to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. It’s a move that comes with some definite familiarity for Coyle, who has experience playing the wing both in Boston and Minnesota before that, with a reunion with David Krejci and Nick Ritchie.

“We all know who Krejci is as a player: He’s [an] awesome, pass-first type of guy,” Coyle said of his move to the B’s second line with ‘new’ linemates. “Ritchie, we’ve seen him and his game progress and progress, putting up numbers and just being a big guy out there and using his size. I think we all know what to expect from each other.”

Par Lindholm, called up from the taxi squad, will step in for the injured DeBrusk and make his season debut.

The Bruins could have some good news on the backend, too, as Matt Grzelcyk was on the ice for Thursday and will be a game-time decision for tonight’s game. The expectation is that Grzelcyk, who has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, will be good to go barring a setback suffered in the pregame warmup.

In net, the Bruins will turn to Jaroslav Halak for his third start of the season. Halak has a 1-0-1 record and .938 save percentage on the season, and 11 wins in 22 career starts against Pittsburgh. He will be backed up by the 6-foot-6 Daniel Vladar tonight with the Bruins giving Tuukka Rask a true night off.

The B’s have won nine straight home meetings against the Pens.

Here’s the complete expected lineup and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Craig Smith

Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Charlie Coyle

Anders Bjork – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner

Trent Frederic – Par Lindholm – Jack Studnicka

Jeremy Lauzon – Charlie McAvoy

Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo

Jakub Zboril – Kevan Miller

Jaroslav Halak

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.