By: Lucas Salvatore | Check me out on Twitter @lsalvatore29
The Boston Bruins should be expecting a few familiar faces to return from injury this week as the regular season winds down. So the question must be asked who will play and who will sit?
As Charlie McAvoy made his return last night in the 4-0 losing effort against the Tampa Bay Lightning, there are injury updates from Head Coach Bruce Cassidy as the Bruins enter their three remaining regular season games.
Rick Nash continues to skate back in Boston as it is more and more likely that he returns to the line up this weekend to get in a regular season game before the playoffs start.
Riley Nash meanwhile is still recovering after being hit with a Torey Krug shot which left him with 40 stitches in his ear.
And as Brandon Carlo will not be available for the remainder of the season, the Bruins will need someone to step up and log top-four minutes which will not be an easy task.
Here’s a look at what the lineup looked like Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
David Krejci seems to have been enjoying himself playing alongside rookies Ryan Donato and Jake DeBrusk. But as Rick Nash continues to make progress, fans should expect one of Donato or DeBrusk to be sent down to the third line when he returns to the lineup. As Rick was brought in for Krejci to feel more at home with a “Lucic like presence” on his line, there should be no reason why Nash would not slide into the right-wing spot on the second line, but the question is who he will replace?
Jake DeBrusk since returning from injury had a great game against the Florida Panthers posting two goals and an assist but has since been left pointless in his last two games. Jake is by far one of the best forecheckers on the team this season, his aggressive style of play makes him perfect for grinding out pucks for Rick Nash and David Krejci. The fact that Jake has spent time playing with them this season and has had time to establish some chemistry with the two forwards make him an obvious choice for the second line heading into the playoffs.
Ryan Donato, on the other hand, has been more than excellent since making the jump to the NHL posting four goals and three assists in nine games so far. Bruins fans should be thrilled with this fantastic production in his early career but shouldn’t jump the gun on calling him a top-six forward just yet. The best way to ease Donato in these situations is to make him a top-nine forward and line him up with Backes and Riley Nash (once healthy) for a more balanced attack going forward. Keeping him on the first powerplay unit would continue to give him high scoring opportunities and would create a better second unit with Rick Nash returning.
So, it should be interesting to see where Rick Nash slides into the lineup when he returns; it would be a broadcaster’s nightmare to see him line up next to Riley Nash when both return to the squad.
One would think out of everyone on the forward core the three that would be in the most trouble of being taken out of the lineup would be Danton Heinen Tommy Wingels and Brian Gionta.
Heinen has had trouble finding the back of the net since mid-January only scoring four goals in that span. Bruins fans should expect to see him taken out of the lineup at the expense of a guy like Ryan Donato but should still expect Danton to make his playoff debut should players like Donato or DeBrusk struggle out of the gate.
Wingels, on the other hand, is a guy that can move up and down the lineup like he has done early in a Bruins uniform. Wingels who has 8 points in 54 career playoff games would only find his way into the lineup in case of an injury on the 4th line as if Kuraly returns fans must assume that the Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari line will remain untouched heading into the postseason.
Gionta is another guy to look at; he would be more of a threat to Heinen ice-time going into the playoffs as he has way more experience, with 68 points in 112 playoff games to Heinen zero. So, it would be interesting to see who the coaching staff leans towards if they need a forward on the top three lines.
The right guy should be Heinen as the youngster has had flashes of brilliance this year and even though he shouldn’t start the playoffs on the team one would think the coaching staff would turn to his 44 points production this year and give him the opportunity first if an injury would occur.
Defensemen should be a big question mark heading into the postseason. Nick Holden and Adam McQuaid should see the last three games as an opportunity to earn a spot on the roster.
Adam McQuaid would be the obvious choice for many Bruins fans as he has always been serviceable and reliable throughout his career. McQuaid should be expected as the one to suit up as the Bruins already have three puck-moving defensemen in Krug, McAvoy, and Grzelyck already on the roster, and they could use more physicality going into a series against the Philadelphia Flyers or Toronto Maple Leafs for example.
Holden would see himself drawing into the line-up in case of an injury to the three puck moving defensemen. Holden has been decent at times in his Bruins career but has struggled to play the right side as a left shot which has in my opinion been the factor on which of these players will start the playoffs.
My 2018 Postseason Boston Bruins Lineup
Have Another lineup in mind? Post a comment I would love to hear other ideas.