The Bruins are in Pittsburgh for what promises to be an emotional and physical showdown with the Penguins on Wednesday night. But they won't be going into this highly anticipated clash at full strength.
The Bruins have had to play the entire season so far without Marc Savard, still sidelined with post-concussion symptoms from the last time the Bruins visited Pittsburgh, when Matt Cooke delivered his infamous cheap shot on the Boston center.
They've also been without Marco Sturm (knee surgery) all season and Johnny Boychuk (fractured forearm) for the last two and a half weeks. Now they'll play their first game without center David Krejci, who suffered a moderate concussion of his own in overtime against St. Louis on Saturday.
There is one bit of good news on the injury front though. Michael Ryder, who left practice early on Tuesday with an undisclosed injury, participated in Wednesday's morning skate and should be OK to play. Jamie Arniel was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Tuesday, but he will be a healthy scratch if Ryder can play.
With the injuries, the Bruins have been forced to juggle their lines. Patrice Bergeron has moved up to Krejci's spot on the top line between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, and will try to keep that unit as productive as it has been so far this season. Blake Wheeler has slid over to center between Jordan Caron and Mark Recchi, while Daniel Paille returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past 10 games. He'll skate with Tyler Seguin and Ryder. Only the fourth line of Greg Campbell, Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton remains unchanged.
That line supplies the bulk of the physical presence for the Bruins, and Thornton in particular could be busy on Wednesday. He'd love to get his hands on Cooke again, but he might have to go through quite a few guys to get the chance. The Penguins have one of the tougher teams in the league with the likes of Michael Rupp, Arron Asham and Craig Adams regularly dressing, and heavyweight Eric Godard is scheduled to play in this one as well. Godard has played in just five of Pittsburgh's first 15 games.
Defenseman Deryk Engelland, who leads the Penguins with six fighting majors, appears to be the odd man out on defense, though. New Hampshire native Ben Lovejoy is expected to return to the lineup in his place. Up front, Mike Comrie will be out, as will Chris Conner, who was recalled Wednesday as insurance as several Penguins have been battling a flu-like bug.
The Penguins are only dealing with one long-term injury, but it's a significant one. Center Jordan Staal was just about ready to return from a foot infection when he suffered a broken hand in practice last week and is now out indefinitely.
Brent Johnson, who is off to a stellar 6-1-1 start with a 1.62 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage while incumbent starter Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled (1-6-0, 3.54 GAA, .853 save percentage), was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, indicating he will get the start in this one.
Tim Thomas was first off for the Bruins, so he will get a chance to bounce back from his first less than spectacular start when he allowed three goals in two periods against Washington on Friday. He's still enjoying a historic start to his season though, at 7-0-0 with a 1.04 GAA, a .967 save percentage and three shutouts.
Projected Bruins lines:
Milan Lucic-Patrice Bergeron-Nathan Horton
Jordan Caron-Blake Wheeler-Mark Recchi
Daniel Paille-Tyler Seguin-Michael Ryder
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Andrew Ference
Matt Hunwick-Dennis Seidenberg
Mark Stuart-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Jamie Arniel, David Krejci (concussion), Johnny Boychuk (forearm)
Projected Penguins lines:
Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke-Evgeni Malkin-Arron Asham
Michael Rupp-Mark Letestu-Tyler Kennedy
Max Talbot-Craig Adams-Eric Godard
Paul Martin-Zbynek Michalek
Brooks Orpik-Kris Letang
Ben Lovejoy-Alex Goligoski
Scratches: Mike Comrie, Chris Conner, Deryk Engelland, Jordan Staal (broken hand)