BOSTON -– Even with his team facing elimination in Game 7 on Wednesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien was in a relaxed mood after his club's morning skate at the Garden.
While awaiting the first question in his briefing with the media, Julien joked, "Anybody want to know if [Patrice] Bergeron is playing?"
For the record, Bergeron will be in the lineup despite the undisclosed injury he suffered in Game 5. He played Sunday in Game 6 but did not take faceoffs, and could be similarly limited in Game 7.
Julien had no hesitation in penciling Bergeron back into his lineup, but the Bruins coach faces a tougher decision in choosing his final forward Wednesday night. In Game 6, he scratched popular veteran Shawn Thornton in favor of Jordan Caron for the first time in the series, but he hasn't revealed his decision for Game 7.
Thornton and Caron alternated on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille in the morning skate, and the final decision between them won't be made until after the pregame warm-ups.
While Julien wasn't tipping his hand on who he would play, he did offer some praise for the youngster.
"Well we talked to him before the series started, because I thought if anything, he was a real good player for us in that last stretch of the regular season," Julien said of Caron. "It was tough to take him out but we went with some experienced guys, first and foremost. The one thing that we said to him, we said, 'You've got to stay ready because there's going to come a point where we're going to need you' and obviously we did last game."
Julien will also have to make a decision on defense. Mike Mottau made his series debut in Game 6 after Joe Corvo was hurt blocking a shot in Game 5. Corvo has returned to practice, but skated with Andrew Bodnarchuk on the fourth pairing in Tuesday's practice and again in Wednesday's morning skate, while Mottau remained with Greg Zanon on the third pairing.
The Capitals have some decisions to make as well. Rugged blueliner John Erskine has played the last three games, chipping in an assist and providing a physical presence on the back end after replacing Jeff Schultz. Schultz was a minus-4 with no points in the first three games, but appears set to return to the lineup for Game 7. He left the morning skate early with the rest of the regulars, while Erskines remained out for extra work with the other scratches.
Washington's skate was officially an optional, but Alexander Semin was the only Capital who did not participate. Coach Dale Hunter said after the skate that Semin was fine and would play on Wednesday.
Tim Thomas and Braden Holtby will again be the goalies. With both teams scoring 14 goals in the series, Thomas (2.18) and Holtby (2.17) have nearly identical goals-against averages, but the rookie Holtby (.935) — playing in his first playoff series — has outperformed the reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe winner (.922) slightly in save percentage.
Stephen Walkom and Eric Furlatt will be the referees, with Greg Devorski and Steve Barton working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille-Patrice Bergeron-Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Brian Rolston
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon-Mike Mottau
Scratches: Jordan Caron, Joe Corvo, Anton Khudobin, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Adam McQuaid (upper body), Nathan Horton (concussion)
Projected Capitals lines
Alex Ovechkin-Brooks Laich-Troy Brouwer
Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera-Jay Beagle-Matt Hendricks
Mike Kuble-Keith Aucoin-Joel Ward
Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik-Mike Green
Jeff Schultz-Dennis Wideman
Scratches: John Erskine, Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Perreault, Mattias Sjogren, Dmitry Orlov, Tomas Vokoun (groin)
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