The Bruins and Senators will meet for the final time in the regular season on Thursday. But it probably won’t be the final matchup between the Northeast Division rivals as they appear to be on a collision course for a first-round playoff matchup next week.
That adds some spice to this clash, but the Bruins aren’t putting too much significance into the contest as they have already clinched the division title and the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins left Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas back in Boston to give those veterans some rest before the playoffs. Johnny Boychuk is also back in Boston after suffering a knee injury Tuesday against Pittsburgh, but the Bruins got some good news there on Thursday with Boychuk diagnosed with just a mild knee sprain. He is listed as day to day.
Adam McQuaid did make the trip, but could remain out as a precaution after suffering a nasty eye injury last Thursday. McQuaid needed 18 stitches to close a cut around his eye after taking a dangerous hit into the boards from Washington’s Jason Chimera. McQuaid has resumed practicing, but the Bruins don’t have a need to rush him back into the lineup.
Lane MacDermid was called up from Providence for insurance up front, but may be the odd man out as Jordan Caron returned to practice Wednesday after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. With Bergeron sitting this one out, the top three lines will be shuffled with Chris Kelly moving up to the second line and Brian Rolston sliding over to center the third.
The defense will also need to reshuffle its pairs with Chara, Boychuk and likely McQuaid all out. Behind that shorthanded blue line, Anton Khudobin is expected to make his Bruins debut in goal. With Marty Turco ineligible to play in the playoffs, Khudobin will have to back up Thomas if Tuukka Rask is not ready to return from his abdominal/groin injury, so getting him some NHL action in this one could be beneficial. Khudobin was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, usually the sign of that night’s starter.
The Senators are taking a different approach to Thursday’s game. They have clinched a playoff spot but still need at least one point in their final two games to secure the seventh seed. They’ll have the bulk of their regular lineup dressed, though backup Ben Bishop is expected to start in goal instead of starter Craig Anderson. That could lead to some interesting decisions in the playoffs if Bishop performs well, as Anderson was 0-3-0 with a 4.75 GAA and an .860 save percentage against the Bruins this season.
With the potential for a playoff series between these clubs next week, there could be some message sending in this one. The Senators certainly have the muscle to do that. Zenon Konopka (third in NHL with 18 fighting majors in just 55 games) is expected to be a scratch, but Chris Neil (10 fighting majors), Zack Smith (eight fighting majors) and heavyweight Matt Carkner are likely to be in the lineup.
Dan O’Halloran and Kelly Sutherland will be the referees, with Scott Cherrey and Scott Driscoll working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot-Brian Rolston-Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Andrew Ference-Dennis Seidenberg
Greg Zanon-Joe Corvo
Torey Krug-Mike Mottau
Anton Khudobin, Marty Turco
Scratches: Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas, Johnny Boychuk (knee), Adam McQuaid (eye), Lane MacDermid, Nathan Horton (concussion), Tuukka Rask (groin)
Projected Senators lines
Colin Greening-Jason Spezza-Milan Michalek
Nick Foligno-Kyle Turris-Daniel Alfredsson
Zack Smith-Jim O’Brien-Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer-Jesse Winchester-Erik Condra
Filip Kuba-Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips-Matt Carkner
Jared Cowen-Sergei Gonchar
Ben Bishop, Craig Anderson
Scratches: Matt Gilroy, Kaspars Daugavins, Rob Klinkhammer. Zenon Konopka, Alex Auld