(Photo credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter! @zcarlone21

After a disappointing showing from the Bruins in Friday afternoon’s game, a 5-2 loss against the New York Rangers, they hold the chance to bounce back tonight against one of the league’s most inconsistent teams. Bruins forwards Patrice Bergeron and Craig Smith scored the lone goals of the contest, and goaltender Jeremy Swayman surrendered four goals on 30 shots. Defensive zone breakdowns killed the Bruins throughout the game, leaving the Rangers wide-open for easy goals that shouldn’t have gotten through. A much-needed chance to earn a win against the 6-13-2 Vancouver Canucks is on the line tonight, with the puck drop scheduled for 7 pm EST.

Ullmark Returns

Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark was scheduled to start the Bruins November 24th game against the Buffalo Sabres but suffered a minor ‘tweak’ of an injury during practice, forcing Swayman to start instead. After Swayman went 1-1 in the Bruins last two games, Ullmark will start tonight’s contest against a team that averages 33.4 shots per game. He’ll need to be ready to go right away, but the major turnaround needs to come from the Bruins defense. The Bruins surrendered 31 shots against the Rangers in Friday’s loss, but Swayman wasn’t comfortable with most of them, bobbling a handful of open rebounds back out.

On the season, Ullmark holds a 4-3-0 record along with a 2.87 GAA and a .908 save percentage. When the Bruins signed Ullmark in the offseason, it was known that the carrousel in net would be an experiment for much of the season without Tuukka Rask. Ullmark and Swayman have been average in net at best, with neither really having an outstanding showing in any one game besides those where the Bruins completely dominated and didn’t surrender a ton of shots. With a high volume of shots potentially coming from the Canucks, this is Ullmark’s chance to prove that he’s healthy and prove he signed with the Bruins as the number one guy.

Lineup Shuffling

With consecutive poor performances from the Bruins bottom-six, head coach Bruce Cassidy opted to change up the bottom-six look for Friday’s game against the Rangers, and it sounds like there are more changes in store for tonight. Cassidy swapped Erik Haula’s place as the third line center with Tomas Nosek, forcing Haula to the fourth line while Nosek played much of the game with Smith and Jake DeBrusk. Much of the bottom-six has struggled lately, but nobody more than Haula. The incoming free agent signing has just one goal and three points through 17 games this season.

Based on practice lines, Bruins forward Trent Frederic is also set to return to the lineup after taking a hard hit during the Bruins game against the Ottawa Senators on November 9th. Haula and Jake DeBrusk are also expected to come out of the lineup. Cassidy is juggling around anybody not on the first line, the only line that’s making consistent production for the black and gold this season. It’s still early into the year, meaning Cassidy still has time to find the right combinations at forward, but the inconsistency and lack of production from the bottom-six should worry Bruins fans.

Defensive Woes

The Bruins defense has done a good job recently of limiting their mistakes and trying to force the play up the ice, not giving the Bruins goaltenders a difficult task. That all changed last game. The Bruins defense let up the middle slot to Rangers forwards multiple times during Friday’s loss, giving them one-too-many chances to earn a victory. The Bruins defenders need to pump the brakes a bit on trying to be too aggressive. Evident in Friday’s loss, they need to always have somebody in front of their goaltender.

Outside of the last game, the Bruins have found a missing piece on defense in Jakub Zboril. The 24-year-old played a good amount of contests last season but played on both sides of the spectrum, often finding himself watching games from the press box because of it. In seven games with the Bruins this season, he’s played very defensively-sound hockey while also making some brilliant plays up the ice. He’s jumped in on offense in the right moments and has been relatively reliable so far on the back end, forcing Cassidy to keep him in the lineup.

Bruins Projected Lineup

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Hall – Coyle – Smith

Foligno – Frederic – Kuhlman

Blidh – Nosek – Lazar

Forbort – McAvoy

Grzelcyk – Carlo

Reilly – Zboril