TAMPA — The Tampa Bay goaltending situation has dominated the discussion heading into Wednesday's Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at the St. Pete Times Forum.
But unlike Game 5, there's no mystery this time around, as Lightning coach Guy Boucher has made it clear he will go back to starter Dwayne Roloson after using backup Mike Smith in Game 5. There's also no doubt about who will be in goal for the Bruins, with Tim Thomas coming off one of his best performances yet in Monday's 3-1 win.
What isn't clear is whether or not Tampa will have its leading playoff goal-scorer in the lineup to try to beat Thomas on Wednesday. Sean Bergenheim suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury on Monday and did not finish Game 5. He did skate briefly Wednesday morning in Tampa, but his status won't be determined until the pre-game warm-up.
"We have to wait," Boucher said. "The doctors are looking at him now, and we have to wait until [Wednesday night]. And then make a game-time decision."
If Bergenheim, who has nine goals in 16 games this postseason, can't go, the Lightning have several options, likely either replacing him up front with Dana Tyrell or going with seven defensemen and reinserting Randy Jones into the lineup. Tyrell has no points and is a minus-3 in five playoff games, while Jones has one assist in five games, creating quite a drop off from Bergenheim.
Losing Bergenheim also disrupts Tampa's most effective two-way line, as he's combined with Dominic Moore and Steve Downie to create a line that has taken the pressure off stars Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos (a combined 1-2-3 in the last three games) and driven opponents to distraction with their aggressive play in both ends of the ice.
"Well, obviously when you take somebody out that's been a big part of our playoffs, it does take some chemistry out, and I've got to find that," Boucher said. "I had to struggle with that in the second period of the last game, and the third period I kind of found what I wanted. So if he is not playing, we'll go with the chemistry that we planned on, and we've got the choice between putting Tyrell in the lineup and to fill the forward spot or we put in a seventh defenseman with Randy Jones. So that's still something that we're oscillating between."
The Bruins, meanwhile, aren't expected to make any lineup changes. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk left Game 5 midway through the third period after being hit into the boards by Downie, but he should be back in the lineup on Wednesday, leaving Shane Hnidy and Steven Kampfer as healthy scratches on defense.
With everyone healthy up front, Shawn Thornton figures to be the odd man out for the third game in a row.
The one thing that may change is the Bruins' power-play alignment. Boston is just 4-for-56 (7.1 percent) on the man-advantage this postseason, and in an effort to get something going on that unit moved big Zdeno Chara from the point to the front of the net briefly in Game 5. That's a deployment that could be utilized even more in this game when the Bruins get chances with the extra man.
"It's a possibility, I liked what he did last game in front of the net," Bruins coach Claude Julien said when asked about using Chara there again. "But he's only going to be useful in front of the net if we put him there if we get control of the puck and we get some shots on net. The first few power plays [in Game 5] we didn't really get control of the puck. It didn't matter who was in front at that point. So I didn't mind what he did and I think we need to see how this game unfolds, but it's certainly a possibility."
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi
Michael Ryder- Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell- Rich Peverley
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Tomas Kaberle-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Shawn Thornton, Shane Hnidy, Steven Kampfer, 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
Blair Jones-Nate Thompson-Adam Hall
Eric Brewer-Mattias Ohlund
Victor Hedman-Brett Clark
Mike Lundin-Marc-Andre Bergeron
Scratches: Pavel Kubina (upper body), Dana Tyrell, Randy Jones, Mattias Ritola, Mathieu Roy, Matt Smaby, Marc-Andre Pouliot, Mike Angelidis, Dustin Tokarski