The Boston Bruins will begin the toughest stretch remaining on their regular-season schedule Tuesday night when they visit the San Jose Sharks.
The matchup with the Sharks kicks off a four-game road trip that includes games against the top three teams in the Pacific Division (San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles) and culminates in a trip to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers.
Boston has struggled against those Pacific powers this season, losing all three meetings at home by a combined score of 20-8. The Bruins have surged of late, though, going 5-0-2 over their last seven games and entering Tuesday with a one-point lead atop the Atlantic Division standings.
Since the Bruins held only an optional skate Tuesday morning, the exact lineup they’ll trot out against the Sharks remains a bit of a mystery. It should include David Krejci, however, as the center missed Monday’s practice but was back on the ice Tuesday morning at SAP Center. Head coach Claude Julien told reporters he “would suspect” Krejci will play against San Jose.
It remains to be seen whether winger Frank Vatrano will see game action after being recalled Monday from Providence on an emergency basis. Due to the nature of his recall, the Bruins would need to have two players who are unable to play in order to use Vatrano without burning one of their three remaining post-trade deadline call-ups.
Vatrano, who played 30 games for Boston earlier in the season, has torched the American Hockey League, scoring 31 goals in 31 contests with the P-Bruins.
UPDATE (9:50 p.m. ET): Vatrano will sit out against the Sharks, joining forward Tyler Randell and defensemen Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow in the press box. Julien also shook up his defensive alignments, with Kevan Miller rejoining Zdeno Chara on the top pairing and John-Michael Liles skating with Dennis Seidenberg on the second.
Here are Tuesday’s projected lines and pairings:
BOSTON BRUINS (39-23-8)
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Lee Stempniak
Loui Eriksson — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey — Ryan Spooner — Jimmy Hayes
Landon Ferraro — Noel Acciari — Brett Connolly
Zdeno Chara — Kevan Miller
John-Michael Liles — Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug — Adam McQuaid
SAN JOSE SHARKS (38-24-6)
Tomas Hertl — Joe Thornton — Joe Pavelski
Melker Karlsson — Logan Couture — Joonas Donskoi
Matt Nieto — Patrick Marleau — Joel Ward
Nick Spaling — Chris Tierney — Dainius Zubrus
Marc-Edouard Vlasic — Justin Braun
Paul Martin — Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon — Roman Polak
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images