The Bruins, currently mired in last place in the Eastern Conference, will look to start the long climb back up the standings Saturday night. The Bruins travel to Montreal in the back end of a home-and-home series with the Canadiens after falling 2-1 to the Habs at the Garden on Thursday.
The Bell Centre has not been a friendly place for the Bruins over the years. Boston lost all three regular-season meetings with the Habs there last year, but did win Games 3 and 4 of their opening-round playoff series in Montreal to tie that series and spark their run to the Cup.
The Bruins hope to start a similar run with a win in Montreal on Saturday, and they’ve restored some of their key playoff line combinations for the showdown. The top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton was reunited in practice Friday and is expected to skate together on Saturday.
Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley are also back together on the third line. They formed Boston’s most effective line in that first-round series last spring with Michael Ryder. Ryder is now in Dallas, and rookie Jordan Caron skated with Kelly and Peverley on Friday. Former Canadien Benoit Pouliot missed practice with an illness and did not make the trip, so he will not make his return to Montreal in this game.
Tyler Seguin, who leads the Bruins with 3-6-9 totals through nine games, is now with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, while the fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton remains intact.
Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg spent some time skating together in practice on Friday as well.
Bruins coach Claude Julien could put them back together as a dominant top pairing. The move to pair them before Game 3 of the Montreal series was the key tactical change Julien made in the playoff run, but Julien told reporters after Saturday’s morning skate that the pairings are likely to remain fluid.
“You don’t have to look at them as pairs, you can mix and match, as we’ve done before,” Julien said. “I think the goal right now is not so much look at pairs, but mix and match and depending on who’s playing and how they’re playing, if a guy is playing well then maybe he needs to play a little more. We’re going to really look at that situation and make it so it becomes an asset to us instead of a detriment to the team.”
The pairings will likely change throughout the game, but Chara and Seidenberg should at least see some time together, with Andrew Ference back with Johnny Boychuk and Joe Corvo with Adam McQuaid on the other default pairings. Steven Kampfer is expected to be the healthy scratch on defense.
Tuukka Rask was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, usually the indication of who will start that night. But Julien wouldn’t tip his hand on his starting netminder, answering only, “It’s one of the two for sure” when asked who would start between Rask and Tim Thomas.
The Canadiens aren’t expected to make any lineup changes from Thursday. Scott Gomez (upper body) remains out and Aaron Palushaj, who was a healthy scratch on Thursday, has been returned to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton. Andrei Markov (knee), Chris Campoli (hamstring) and Ryan White (groin) remain sidelined with long-term injuries.
Dave Jackson and Justin St-Pierre will be the referees, with Steve Barton and Pierre Champoux working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Jordan Caron-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Joe Corvo-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Benoit Pouliot, Steven Kampfer
Projected Canadiens lines
Max Pacioretty-Tomas Plekanec-Brian Gionta
Michael Cammalleri-David Desharnais-Erik Cole
Travis Moen-Lars Eller-Andrei Kostitsyn
Mathieu Darche-Petteri Nokelainen-Mike Blunden
Josh Gorges-P.K. Subban
Hal Gill-Raphael Diaz
Jaroslav Spacek-Yannick Weber
Scratches: Scott Gomez (upper body), Alexei Emelin