The Boston Bruins may finally be feeling the effects of an injury-plagued roster and will try to manage a split in their swing through the Sunshine State when they visit the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night in an Atlantic Division battle. The Bruins have dropped two straight, including a 5-0 setback at Florida on Tuesday, with All-Star center Patrice Bergeron and three top-six defensemen unavailable.
"Tonight it was men against boys," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after Tuesday's setback. ". ... There are no easy answers. What we've done over the last few weeks as we've been depleted in the blue line is that we've stayed in games, played good team defense, got good goaltending and our power play has picked us up when we needed it." The Bruins, who could get defenseman Charlie McAvoy (concussion) back in the lineup soon, were 4-1-1 before their two-game slide and face the red-hot Lightning for the first time this season after being eliminated by them in the second round of the playoffs in May. Tampa Bay, which starts a four-game homestand after winning four straight and seven of its last eight contests to lead the league in points (43), rallied from a two-goal deficit twice and earned a 6-5 shootout win at Detroit on Tuesday. "We had a lot of different players step up (Tuesday)," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters. "That's a sign that good things are happening."
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, TVA, NESN (Boston), FS Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE BRUINS (14-9-4): Brandon Carlo returned the last two games after missing three weeks with a shoulder injury to give Boston three regulars on the blue line with captain Zdeno Chara (knee), McAvoy and Kevan Miller (throat) still out. Right wing David Pastrnak leads the team with 19 goals and 30 points, but has been kept off the scoresheet four times in eight games since linemate Bergeron went down with a shoulder injury. Left wing Brad Marchand (seven goals, 24 points), the other member of the top line, has been held to a goal and three assists in eight games since Bergeron (nine goals, 26 points) was knocked out of the lineup.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (21-7-1): Right wing Nikita Kucherov (12 goals, 30 assists) saw his 10-game point streak come to an end Tuesday, but scored the deciding tally in the shootout as Tampa Bay improved to 5-1 after regulation. Mathieu Joseph scored twice and set up Cedric Paquette for the tying short-handed goal Tuesday while their fourth-line mate Ryan Callahan registered his first multi-point effort of the season (two assists). Paquette, who already has two more goals (seven) than last season, told reporters: "I'm feeling really good. Confidence is high. I think the way our line is playing, our team's playing, we're having success just by playing simple."
1. Tampa Bay G Louis Domingue, who was 8-3-0 in 11 straight starts before being rested Tuesday, should be back in net.
2. Boston G Tuukka Rask has a .934 save percentage his last five games overall and is expected between the pipes Thursday.
3. The Bruins, who lost in five games to the Lightning in the playoffs last spring, won three of four in the regular season.
PREDICTION: Lightning 4, Bruins 2 Bet Now
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