An unidentified player’s move into the National Hockey League’s COVID protocol canceled the Bruins’ morning skate at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center on Thursday morning. But the positive test from the player, since identified as B’s fourth-line forward Sean Kuraly, will not cancel the first 2021 meeting between the B’s and league-worst Sabres.
It’s unclear as to whether or not Kuraly’s positive test is yet another false positive delivered to the Boston room — something already experienced by both Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk in the last two weeks — but Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy did note that Kuraly was the only Boston player to test positive.
Cassidy, who gave his team the day off on Wednesday, meaning that they haven’t been on the ice since Tuesday’s meeting with Pittsburgh, also doesn’t believe that the cancelation of their morning skate will derail the Bruins.
“I think the players are used to a little bit of disruption because it’s happening so often,” Cassidy said. “I suspect our guys will be ready. I think teams just go through it at different parts of the year.”
Taxi squad forward Greg McKegg will step into Kuraly’s spot in the middle of the Black and Gold’s fourth line with Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman on the wings. McKegg has appeared in one NHL game in 2021, and stuffed the box score with three shots, three hits, and wins in three of his four faceoffs in just 11:22 of play in a Feb. 28 win over the Rangers.
On the backend, Jack Ahcan will step in for the injured Jarred Tinordi and make his NHL debut. The 5-foot-8 Ahcan has tallied one goal and seven points in 12 AHL games this season.
Jaroslav Halak will get the start for the Bruins.
The Sabres are in the midst of a 12-game losing streak (0-10-2) and fired head coach Ralph Krueger on Wednesday.
Here’s the complete expected lineup and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Oskar Steen
Trent Frederic – Greg McKegg – Karson Kuhlman
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Connor Clifton
Jack Ahcan – Steven Kampfer