BOSTON — The Bruins and Lightning will face off in a decisive Game 7 Friday night at the Garden, with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final at stake.
Setting the lineups for such a pivotal game is no easy task. Bruins coach Claude Julien isn't likely to make any changes, but he won't finalize his roster until just before game time. As usual, he'll have an extra forward and a couple spare defensemen on the ice in warm-ups to both get the experience of preparing for a playoff game and to be ready if needed.
"It is [difficult]. Everybody wants to play at this stage of the season," Julien said after the club's morning skate. "All I can say is give you the same answer I've given every other time. We'll have 23 guys out there tonight, and you'll have to wait until game time."
Forward Shawn Thornton and defensemen Shane Hnidy and Steven Kampfer are the spare players expected to be in the warm-up, but not likely to play.
Tampa counterpart Guy Boucher has a different kind of decision to make, and the choice won't be solely up to him. Sean Bergenheim, the club's leading goal-scorer in the playoffs, skated again in the morning but will likely miss his second straight game after suffering a lower-body injury in Game 5.
Despite his presence on the ice Friday morning, Boucher isn't expecting good news from the club's medical staff.
"I wouldn't say optimistic for now," Boucher said. "It's better. He might try the warm-up. We'll see. I've still got to talk to my therapists and doctors. There's been some improvement. To what extent, we'll have to wait and see, but [he's] doubtful."
In Game 6, Dana Tyrell filled in for Bergenheim as Boucher stuck with the traditional 12-forward, six-defenseman deployment. He could use that lineup again or re-insert Randy Jones as a seventh defenseman as he did early in the series. Either way, the loss of Bergenheim is a major blow in matching up against Boston's forward depth.
"Obviously you want to think of your own team," Boucher said. "But at the same time, when you look at the Bruins' depth, it does make a difference because instead of equalizing things, it has a tendency to give them a little upper hand on that, because they've got [Tyler] Seguin on their third line and [Michael] Ryder and [Chris] Kelly is doing really well. And they've got [Rich] Peverley on the fourth line. [That's a] first-line guy from another team on their fourth line, and that's where Bergenheim became extremely important for us in the previous series and this series where the line with [Steve] Downie and [Dominic] Moore played like a first line.
"So right now, we're trying to find chemistry with some other guys," Boucher added. "I tried things two games ago. I tried things the last game. Some of it worked, some of it didn't work. It makes me juggle a little bit to try to find some chemistry that is absolutely crucial in any of these playoff games."
There won't be any questions in goal for this one, with Tim Thomas obviously starting again for the Bruins and Boucher confirming Thursday that he would go with Dwayne Roloson again. Roloson is 7-0 in elimination games, but has been shaky in this series. He was pulled twice and benched for Game 5, then allowed four goals on just 20 shots in Wednesday's 5-4 win in Game 6.
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
Dana Tyrell-Dominic Moore-Steve Downie
Blair Jones-Nate Thompson-Adam Hall
Eric Brewer-Mattias Ohlund
Victor Hedman-Brett Clark
Mike Lundin-Marc-Andre Bergeron
Scratches: Sean Bergenheim (lower body), Pavel Kubina (upper body), Randy Jones, Mattias Ritola, Mathieu Roy, Matt Smaby, Marc-Andre Pouliot, Mike Angelidis, Dustin Tokarski