After an almost five-month absence the Bruins are finally returning to the ice for a hockey game. With all the teams now in their hub city, each team gets essentially a warm-up game before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. Yes, the Play-in round isn't technically the Playoffs, but it's a series to see who plays in the actual playoffs. For the Bruins that warm-up game comes against last year's second-round opponent the Columbus Blue Jackets. After this game the Bruins will enter the round-robin to see which top-four seed they will be. On the other side, Columbus will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in a best of five series to see who makes the playoffs.
What To Expect
If you have watcded any of the exhibition games you know each team will have some rust to work through. I don’t think anyone anticipates this game will showcase a midseason clash of the Eastern Titans feel. However, with both teams being pretty physical expect that part of the game going early just to get everyone engaged. The Blue Jackets will welcome multiple players back who previously might have missed the rest of the season. Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alexander Texier, Dean Kukan, and Nathan Gerbe will all be on the Columbus play-in roster. While Gerbe is the odd man out if any of their young players should filter, he will draw into the lineup.
We can expect to see both teams using both their starter and backup goalies so each sees some game action. For Columbus this might even serve as the tryout for their Game 1 starter against the Leafs. The Bruins will also be welcoming David Pastrnak back to the lineup after he missed most of training camp. With Ondrej Kase still not back in the lineup, rookie Jack Studnicka will have a prominent role with the team filling in on the right side. While the Bruins lost both games of the season series this game is less about winning and more about preparation. Yes, we all want a win, but it's more important to be ready for our round-robin game against the Flyers.
First line Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak. Second line Jake Debrusk - David Krejci - Jack Studnicka. Third line Sean Kuraly - Charlie Coyle - Anders Bjork. Fourth line Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner. First defensive pair Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy. Second defensive pair Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo. Third defensive pair Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon. Goalies Tuukka Rask Jaroslav Halak. The Bruins lines are based on their lines during Wednesday's practice with both Kase and Ritchie unfit to play.
First line Nick Foligno - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand. Second line Gustav Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Cam Atkinson. Third line Alexandre Texier - Alexander Wennberg - Emil Bemstrom. Fourth line Eric Robinson - Reilly Nash - Liam Foudy. First defensive pair Zach Werenski - Seth Jones. Second defensive pair Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard. Third defensive pair Ryan Murray - Dean Kukan. Goalies Joonas Korpisalo Elvis Merzlikins. Columbus lines are based on their last day of camp before leaving for Toronto.
Just like in any game there will be a winner and I see the Bruins taking this one. Expect some rust, expect some mistakes, but it's better to get those out now than a game that actually matters. Look for both team’s goalies to each play about half the game. In the end, I think the Bruins show their superior skill and walk away with a 4-2 victory. Anders Bjork with his new extension and Jack Studnicka were both camp standouts, and I think have big games. With meaningful games just around the corner and plenty of news still to come, keep checking back for all the latest in Boston sports. Stay safe out there and LET’S GO BRUINS!
Featured image courtesy of Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald.