By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21
The Bruins come into tonight’s contest against the New York Islanders with their previous two scheduled games postponed due to COVID Protocol/health and safety concerns. Their last game was a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres seven days ago when Sean Kuraly was placed on the COVID Protocol list and was taken out of the lineup before puck drop. Two Bruins players remain on the COVID Protocol list, but the team expects a few depth players back in the lineup. The puck drop for tonight’s home game is scheduled for 7 pm EST.
For the first time since March 7th, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask will tend the twine, according to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. The Bruins number one goaltender sustained an injury against the New Jersey Devils on March 7th and has been out since. With the extra week off due to the COVID Protocol striking the team, Rask had the extra time to get healed and rested. He’ll look to earn his first win since injury against a hot New York Islanders team that the Bruins have usually struggled against this season.
On the season, Rask has an 8-4-2 record with a 2.46 GAA and a .906 save percentage. Jaroslav Halak and Dan Vladar did as good of a job filling in for Rask as they could while he was out, and now the Bruins get a familiar face back. Not only is Rask expected to be in, but fellow teammates Jarred Tinordi and Trent Frederic, both previously battling injuries, are expected to return as well too. Decisions on their availability will be made after warm-ups—good news for the Bruins.
COVID Protocol Listers Back
Before the Bruins game last Thursday, forward Sean Kuraly was placed on the COVID protocol list. The next day, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Craig Smith, and Jake DeBrusk were also placed on the list. As of last night’s practice, Pastrnak, Krejci, and Smith have come off the list and are expected to be eligible to play tonight. DeBrusk and Kuraly are still expected to be out.
The Bruins are used to playing with the next-man-up mentality already, as they’ve been decimated by injuries this season. Many of the injured players still out for the Bruins are actually a possibility for the lineup tonight. Still, the Bruins will be without some lineup-regulars, along with DeBrusk and Kuraly, both of whom have been out of the lineup before.
Fans Back at the Garden
If it wasn’t exciting enough to know the Bruins will be playing tonight for the first time in a week, think again. For the first time in over a year, the Bruins are allowing fans at TD Garden, starting with tonight’s game and continuing beyond. Although the Garden won’t be filled to maximum capacity for obvious reasons, it’s a step in the right direction towards getting back to what we’ve always known as one of the best atmospheres across the league. The Bruins will start tonight with a capacity of 12%, equalling a little over 2,100 fans.
The majority of teams across the NHL have already begun letting fans back into their arenas in a limited setting, and it’s nothing short of a relief that the Bruins can follow starting tonight. Their last game with a packed crowd at TD Garden was March 7th of last year. The Bruins, however, will have their hands full with an Islanders team that’s sitting alone in first place in the MassMutual East Division. The Bruins are 0-3-1 against the Islanders this season, and they’re hoping the return of fans will give them an extra jump in their game.
Bruins Projected Lineup
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
Ritchie – Krejci – Smith
Bjork – Coyle – Kuhlman
Frederic – McKegg – Wagner
Grzelcyk – McAvoy
Zboril – Clifton
Tinordi – Kampfer
Per head coach Bruce Cassidy, due to the morning skate being cancelled (not COVID-related), decisions on Tinordi and Frederic will be made after warmups. If they can’t go, expect Jack Ahcan on defense and Jack Studnicka on forward instead.