Why Bruce Cassidy Decided To Switch Lines Up For Bruins-Sabres

Most notably, Craig Smith will be on Boston's top line

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When the Bruins take the ice Saturday afternoon for the first time since mid-December, the lines will look a little different.

Boston hosts Buffalo at TD Garden for New Year’s Day matinee hockey and head coach Bruce Cassidy, as he’s been known to do, will switch up his lines.

Most notably, Craig Smith will be on the top line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, meaning David Pastrnak will play on the second line centered by Erik Haula. Charlie Coyle will move to the third line where he’s had success for the Bruins in the past.

“I think maybe since the first day or second day of the season, early on anyway, I think it’s the first time we’ve had that group of 12 forwards together,” Cassidy told reporters Friday. “I think Smitty went out fairly early, tried to play through some stuff, (Nick) Foligno went out, obviously some COVID along the way, suspension, so some different things happened. Now they’re back.”

Cassidy noted Coyle, who just returned from COVID-19 protocols, needs to get some “reps under him” before likely returning to the second line.

“Charlie Coyle was the only one — I spoke to him this morning, he’s got to get some reps under him,” Cassidy said. “But he feels pretty good. We decided to take a look knowing that there’s some pieces that can slide back fairly easily.”

Both Hall and Pastrnak have struggled a bit offensively to begin the season, and Cassidy is hoping their speed on the same line will help generate some much-needed offense.

“Taylor, that’s still a work in progress, he’s got to learn to play in tight areas and off the shot, etc. That’s where those guys are gonna have to make sure they bear down, not just be a one-and-done line,” Cassidy said. “At the end of the day, they will hopefully transition well, that’s part of it.

“Right now, it’s January, let’s see if we can get them going and then build in the other parts that need to be built in.”

Puck drop from TD Garden is set for 1 p.m. ET on NESN, with an hour of pregame coverage beginning at 12 p.m.

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