Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: TD Garden
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, NESN
Opponent SBNation Site: Stanley Cup of Chowder
It’s extremely hard to believe, but the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins haven’t played for almost a year and a half. Their last meeting happened during the second round of the Stanley Cup in 2020. Sunce then they were separated by different divisions during the 2020-21 shortened regular season and their paths didn't cross in the playoffs last spring. Now, two Stanley Cups later, the Lightning are heading to Boston for the first meeting of the season against the Bruins.
An injury-depleted Lightning managed to earn a win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday thanks to an impressive performance by Victor Hedman. Overall it wasn’t exactly the best Lightning’s game, but they’ve got two points in this game, remaining five points behind both the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the standings.
Mathieu Joseph missed both of the previous games against St. Louis after suffering an injury during the Sunday’s game against Minnesota. Jon Cooper didn’t reveal the exact date of his return, only mentioning that he’s expected to be available during the upcoming five-game road trip. This also means that Gabriel Fortier could stay with the team for couple of more games. In the last game he played nine minutes on the line with Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn, recording three shots on goals, two hits and a solid 54.84 xGF% during his shifts — pretty impressive numbers for a rookie.
Meanwhile Alex Barre-Boulet has cooled down since scoring two goals in the first two games after Brayden Point’s injury and Barre-Boulet’s promotion to the top-line. His time on the ice has dropped to less than ten minutes per game in the past two games despite getting some time on the power play. He’s still very active on the ice and the last game wasn’t necessarily bad for him, but his struggles on 5v5 are still noticeable.
Other than Joseph’s potential return, no big changes are expected. With healthy Erik Cernak and the coaching staff’s faith in Zach Bogosian, Cal Foote will likely be watching the games from the stands for a while. Still no updates on Nikita Kucherov, who reportedly was expected to meet with his surgeon earlier this week, but he’s definitely close to start practicing again. Brayden Point is expected to be back before Kucherov. With the Lightning playing back-to-back this weekend, Andrei Vasilevskiy will likely start tonight against the Bruins tonight, while Brian Elliott will play against his former team Philadelphia Flyers on the next day.
The Boston Bruins had a relatively slow start, comparing to what we’ve expected to see from them. Currently they’re out of the playoff position, sitting at the fifth position in the Atlantic Division, six points behind the Lightning and three points behind the Detroit Red Wings (although they have four games in hand over Detroit). They’ve improved in the past month, posting a 6-4-0 record in the last 10 games.
The Bruins will play against the Lightning without their scoring leader Brad Marchand, who was suspended three games for slew-footing Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson last Sunday. In his absence Taylor Hall will slide into his spot on the top-line. In his second season with the Bruins, Hall is still not what their fans expected to see from a former Hart Trophy winner, as he recorded just 11 points in 20 games this regular season.
The Bruins are still missing their head coach Bruce Cassidy, who’s recovering from COVID-19. In his absence assistant coach Joe Sacco took over the team on the bench.
With tonight’s game in Boston, the Lightning are starting a five-game road trip. Tomorrow the team will play against the Flyers in Philadelphia and after that leaving to Canada to play against the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the next week.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines:
Ondrej Palat — Steven Stamkos — Alex Barre-Boulet
Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Gabriel Fortier
Patrick Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Corey Perry
Taylor Raddysh — Ross Colton — Boris Katchouk
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — Zach Bogosian
Boston Bruins Lines:
Taylor Hall — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak
Erik Haula — Charlie Coyle — Craig Smith
Nick Foligno — Trent Frederic — Karson Kuhlman
Jake DeBrusk — Tomas Nosek — Curtis Lazar
Derek Forbort — Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk — Brandon Carlo
Mike Reilly — Jakub Zboril (?)