TAMPA — Bruins coach Claude Julien could be faced with a tough decision on Thursday night, but it's a dilemma he would welcome.
Julien and the Bruins are still awaiting word from the medical staff about the status of injured center Patrice Bergeron for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
The Bruins will welcome back their top two-way forward with open arms, but Julien will then have to make the difficult choice on who to sit out to make room for Bergeron in the lineup. Julien made it clear on Wednesday that Tyler Seguin won't be heading back to the press box any time soon after putting up 3-3-6 totals in his first two career playoff games when he was inserted into the lineup with Bergeron out.
With Michael Ryder also catching fire of late with 2-2-4 in two games playing on a line with Seguin, the options to sit likely come down to either Shawn Thornton or Daniel Paille, with Paille's role on the penalty kill probably too valuable to spare.
Regardless of whoever eventually sits, whether on Thursday or later in the series if Bergeron remains out for Game 3, Julien can take solace that it isn't likely to cause any problems in the room with the character on this team. But Julien also wants to see whoever is scratched remain hungry to get back into the lineup, as they will almost certainly be called upon again this postseason.
"Well I don't think I want them to accept it," Julien said. "I think I just want them to understand it. A guy who accepts that is not what I want to see. Everybody wants to play. I think what has to happen is he needs to understand, and whoever that may be [sitting out], it's about the team right now and through a long series you see changes all the time. And the best thing, whoever that player ends up being has to be ready to jump into the lineup when he's called upon. And that's been the case since Day 1 anyway. That hasn't changed."
Other than Bergeron's possible return, there shouldn't be any other changes for the Bruins in Game 3. Milan Lucic, who took a slap shot from Seguin off the right foot in practice on Monday, was the only Bruin not present for the morning skate as even Mark Recchi eschewed his usual veteran's prerogative to skip the skate and took part, but Julien said Lucic would be fine for the game.
"No issues, he's going to be in [Thursday night]," Julien said. "And as you know during playoffs, there are certain things you do and give guys time off for whatever reasons. He's going to be there and there won't be any excuses to his game at all and you've seen Recchi miss at times. Recchi [Thursday] morning wanted to go on so there is very minor issues when it comes to that."
Julien also noted that defenseman Steven Kampfer, working his way back from a knee injury, was close to being ready to play if needed, though he'll likely only be called upon if there is another injury on the blue line.
"He's pretty close I think," Julien said. "I just talked to him after practice there. We had a little bit of a chat on the ice and talked about what he's been through the last little while and how he's felt and everything else. So I think he's getting pretty close to that. So if anything I think pretty soon we'll be able to say he's a guy that could jump in if something happened."
The Lightning may get one of their injured players back as well. Forward Dana Tyrell, who has missed the last nine games with a foot injury, skated with the club Thursday morning and was no longer sporting a red no-contact jersey. He could be back in the lineup for Game 3, but defenseman Pavel Kubina, out with a head injury, is not ready to return.
"Kubina won't be playing [Thursday night] and Tyrell is ready to go, so we'll make a decision after the warm-up," Tampa coach Guy Boucher said. "Kubina right now we're going to wait."
If Tyrell does play, Boucher will have some decisions to make with his lineup. The Lightning have gone with just 11 forwards in the first two games, opting to dress an extra defenseman. They could scratch another forward and continue that non-traditional roster breakdown, or they could scratch a defenseman, most likely Randy Jones, and go with the traditional 12-forward, six-defensemen setup.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand- Rich Peverley-Mark Recchi
Michael Ryder- Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Tomas Kaberle-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Patrice Bergeron (concussion), Shane Hnidy, Steven Kampfer (knee), Matt Bartkowski, Jordan Caron, Jamie Arniel, Trent Whitfield, Anton Khudobin
Projected Lightning lines
Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Martin St. Louis
Simon Gagne-Vincent Lecavalier-Teddy Purcell
Sean Bergenheim-Dominic Moore-Steve Downie
Nate Thompson-Adam Hall
Eric Brewer-Mattias Ohlund
Victor Hedman-Brett Clark
Mike Lundin-Randy Jones
Scratches: Pavel Kubina (upper body), Dana Tyrell (foot), Blair Jones, Mattias Ritola, Mathieu Roy, Matt Smaby, Marc-Andre Pouliot, Mike Angelidis, Dustin Tokarski