BOSTON — The Bruins can clinch the Northeast Division title on Thursday with a win over Toronto, but they'll have to do it without a couple of their regulars.
Shawn Thornton will miss his first game of the season, as he has not been medically cleared to play after taking a skate to the forehead in Tuesday's win over Chicago. Thornton needed more than 40 stitches to close the cut. He participated in the morning skate with a new helmet fitted with a visor but will need at least a couple of more days to let the cut heal.
Johnny Boychuk will also be out of the lineup, though no injury is involved there. There's also no issue with Boychuk's play of late, as he scored his second goal in the last four games on Tuesday after managing just one goal in his first 60 games.
Bruins coach Claude Julien is simply giving Boychuk a night off to get Steven Kampfer back into the lineup. Kampfer has been a healthy scratch the last six games and played just two of the last 12. Julien wants all eight of his defensemen to stay sharp and be ready if needed in the postseason.
"Kampfer is going to play [Thursday night], so Boychuk is going to sit this one out and we're going to kind of maybe rotate guys in and out," Julien said. "[It has] nothing to do with their play more than we have an opportunity to give some guys playing time, which we want to make sure we do, and we'll work through it."
Shane Hnidy won't make his season debut on Thursday but will play soon as well, perhaps as early as Saturday against Atlanta.
"When it's right," Julien said of when Hnidy will play. "He might be a possibility next game. We're certainly looking at maybe bringing him in next game."
With Thornton out, Michael Ryder will celebrate his 31st birthday by returning to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last two games. He has gone 11 games without a goal and has just one in his last 19 games, but Julien believes Ryder can get his offense going again.
"I think he's capable of doing that," Julien said. "When Michael is on his game, he's a real good asset to our hockey team. He makes things happen out there on the ice and he gets great quality chances. He's just got to find his game. I think it's not us being down on him, it's us wanting more out of him and we hope that we can find that moving forward because he can be a valuable player for us in the playoffs. And he's proven that in the past."
Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, indicating he will likely get the start in this one after blanking the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Thomas is 4-0-0 in his last four starts, allowing just two goals in that span.
The Maple Leafs held an optional skate with only a handful of players taking the ice at the Garden. James Reimer is expected to be in goal for Toronto, which is trying to stay alive in the playoff race seven points out of the final spot with just five games left. Reimer has started 17 of the last 19 games for Toronto, including each of the last five.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi
Rich Peverley-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille-Greg Campbell-Michael Ryder
Zdeno Chara-Steven Kampfer
Tomas Kaberle- Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Shawn Thornton (facial laceration), Johnny Boychuk, Shane Hnidy
Projected Maple Leafs lines
Phil Kessel-Mikhail Grabovski-Nikolai Kulemin
Clarke MacArthur-Tyler Bozak-Joffrey Lupul
Joey Crabb-Darryl Boyce-Nazem Kadri
Mike Brown-Tim Brent-Fredrik Sjostrom
Dion Phaneuf-Keith Aulie
Luke Schenn-Carl Gunnarsson
Mike Komisarek-Matt Lashoff
Scratches: Jay Rosehill, Brett Lebda, Colby Armstrong (foot), Colton Orr (concussion)