The Bruins will face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning for their second game of the round-robin. After two lackluster efforts maybe an Atlantic Division opponent gets the blood boiling a little. A huge relief to Bruins fans everywhere will be the return of Tuukka Rask. The ever ambiguous unfit to play label was assigned to the goalie before their last game. With reports, he was feeling under the weather prior to game day speculation was rampant.
Rask actually elaborated on his absence and here is an NBC Sports Boston article covering his media Q and A. From Rask “I had a cough so I just clicked yes on the app and then all kinds of red lights started blinking and I was quarantined for two days. They wanted to do two negative tests after that. They want to be very cautious of that if there are any symptoms”. A little insight into the NHL safety protocols and yes there apparently is an app for that.
Some more good news for the Bruins is the return to practice of both deadline acquisitions. Nick Ritchie made his return to Bruins practice along with Ondrej Kase. The two forwards skated on the Krejci line at practice along with Karson Kuhlman. While Ritchie will play against Tampa Kase will be held out until at least Sunday against the Capitals as he gets back up to speed. Jake DeBrusk was moved to the Coyle line playing his off-wing with Bjork. Hopefully, the added goal-scoring ability on that line can finally net some results from their great chances. Surprisingly Jack Studnicka will be out of the lineup after probably being the most noticeable forward on his line against Philly. Hopefully, the line juggling can produce some results and this team can look more like the dominant force it was during the season.
Tampa will be looking to keep their momentum going after a 3-2 shootout win over the Capitals. In Tampa’s first exhibition game they crushed the Panthers 5-0 so the Bruins defense will need to be ready. Steven Stamkos will not play but that hasn’t slowed the Lightning down so far. The Point Palat Kucherov line combined for 10 points in the game against Florida. Even against the Caps Point and Kucherov combined on the first goal and then both scored in the shootout. With Tampa winning three of the four regular-season meetings the Bruins could take a huge step in the right direction with a win today.
What To Watch For
The first thing I want to see is the new Coyle line. Possibly the team’s new second line after Coyle led all skaters in ice time last game. Will DeBrusk be able to regain his scoring touch on such a play driving line? With Krejci now centering Ritchie and Kuhlman, it looks like his line has been demoted to third after two poor outings. On defense will the Bruins be able to stop the high power Lightning attack? Even without Stamkos Tampa has a myriad of scoring options. After giving up two goals to the Flyers fourth line the defense needs to come up big in this game. Finally, how will Rask play after his brief quarantine? After allowing three goals on 20 shots to Columbus this is the perfect bounce-back opportunity for Rask. A strong performance could provide some confidence and momentum going forward.
After the first two games, what is an acceptable result? Do we demand a win in a dominant fashion? Or would strong signs of improvement be enough? While this team is capable of great things this is still a game that doesn’t really count. For this team, these are hard games to go all out in. It’s why we lost the season series to Detroit. For some reason, if it’s not a must-win or big game this group comes out flat sometimes.
With that in mind, I want this game to look like the last two regular-season matchups between these two. Those were physical battles to the final whistle neither team giving an inch. It was everything we love about playoff hockey. If we can see that even in a loss this fan will be happy. Mostly because we still have a game against Washington as the final now we are all the way back game. After all the players that missed time through camp and even in phase two, this team needs to start making progress and fast. We all know this team is capable of making a deep run possibly even winning it all. It’s time they started looking like it. As always stay safe out there and LET’S GO BRUINS!
Featured image courtesy of Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald.