The Boston Bruins can take a giant step toward clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a win Saturday afternoon.
The Bruins enter Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden with 103 points, good for second in the Atlantic Division ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have 97 points. Both teams have five games remaining, as well as the same ROW (regular/overtime wins), which is the first tiebreaker. The Leafs play Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators.
We’ll spare you the confusing details and just tell you that if Boston wins Saturday and Toronto loses, all hell would have to break loose in order for the Bruins to be on the road against the Leafs in Round 1. Boston automatically clinches home-ice with 107 points.
As for the lineups, forward Marcus Johansson will get a shot on Boston’s top line while David Pastrnak will start at right wing alongside David Krejci on the second line. The game also could mark the return of defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who’s been out since March 10 with an arm injury. The Boston University product is a game-time decision. Fellow D-man Kevan Miller (upper body) also is a game-time decision, but Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated during the week that Miller is more likely to suit up Sunday when Boston visits the Detroit Red Wings.
Tuukka Rask will start in net.
Here are the projected lines and defense pairings for Saturday’s Bruins-Panthers game:
BOSTON BRUINS (47-21-9)
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Marcus Johansson
Jake DeBrusk — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen — Charlie Coyle — Chris Wagner
Joakim Nordstrom — Noel Acciari — David Backes
Zdeno Chara — Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug — Brandon Carlo
Connor Clifton — Steven Kampfer
FLORIDA PANTHERS (34-32-12)
Jonathan Huberdeau — Aleksander Barkov — Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman — Vincent Trocheck — Jayce Hawryluk
Denis Malgin — Henrik Borgstrom — Frank Vatrano
Dryden Hunt — Riley Sheahan — Troy Brouwer
Keith Yandle — Aaron Ekblad
Mark Pysyk — Josh Brown
MacKenzie Weegar — Brady Keeper