The Bruins had a day off to rest and then hopefully find a way to travel across the storm-ridden northeast and to a snow covered and iced over Toronto for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with the Maple Leafs which they lead 2-0 after a 7-3 win in Game 2 Saturday. While the weather report wasn’t promising, there was good news on the injury front as it appears forward Riley Nash could get the green light to rejoin the lineup for the first time since he took a puck to the ear, suffering a scary laceration and concussion.
“Riley Nash is looking good, he’ll be a guy that could go into the lineup tomorrow,” head coach Bruce Cassidy told the media on an off and travel day for the Bruins and Leafs. “I think Riley playing that center ice third spot, if he’s healthy, then there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be in there. He’s been pretty much a constant for us all year.”
Cassidy praised Nash for his versatility and noted that he has been a key piece of the Bruins’ expansive depth that helped them earn 50 wins despite being ravaged by injuries, especially in the final month of the season.
“He’s another guy that we put into the lineup that we expect to do the job at both ends of the lineup,” Cassidy pointed out. Clearly, the Bergeron line is doing most of the damage, but all year we won 50 games, mostly because of our support people. I put Riley in that category. He’s maybe gravitating out of that when you’re playing 16 or 17 minutes a night, but that’s what he’s gonna bring, a little bit of everything. Faceoffs; 200-foot guy; match-up guy; kill penalties; he’s gone into the power play when we’ve had injuries and he’s moved up to the top line when [Patrice] Bergeron was hurt and produced. So that’s what he brings and that’s why we’re a good team.”
As for forward Tommy Wingels who missed Game 2 after being hit from behind by Leafs forward Nazem Kadri in Game 1? Cassidy said he’s close too, but if forced to choose between re-inserting Nash or Wingels, it will likely be the versatile center, Nash.
“He was skating today, he’s very close as well. We’ve just got to decide what our best fit is for the lineup. Let’s say they’re both healthy…who comes out? I think Riley, if he’s healthy, pretty good chance he’ll get in there.”
No Matter who’s in there, Cassidy and the Bruins know they will be in a raucous and hostile environment when the series shifts back to Toronto for GAmes 3 and 4 Monday and Thursday.
“Playing there this year was loud,” Cassidy said of the ACC Centre. “I thought we played well in pockets of the game and had chances to win both games this year. One we let get away late; the other one, they were better than us, but we found a way to hang around until the end. It’s going to be a challenge up there, we know that just like it was a challenge for them to come down here.
Their younger players tend to get really excited and reenergized back home. I would suspect we’ll take these two games, put them behind us, take the good from it, look for a good start up there because I expect them to be buzzing and see what we can do to tilt the game our way.”
Whether it’s Riley Nash and/or Wingels going back into the lineup, it’s very likely that rookie Ryan Donato will be back in the press box as a healthy scratch in Game 3. Here’s what we expect the Bruins lineup to look like for Game 3: