Game Preview: Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
7pm, TD Garden, Boston, MA
TV: NESN, SUN-Florida Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
T-minus 24 hours until the puck officially drops on the Boston Bruins’ 2013-14 regular season, with new division opponent the Tampa Bay Lightning in town as the black and gold’s first opponent. There are a number of new faces in the Bruins lineup, while the Bolts are looking to get back on the winning track after a disappointing 14th place finish last season.
The Bruins have a fresh new lineup as they begin a new quest for the Cup, but injuries are already taking their toll. David Krejci, one of the team’s new alternate captains, practiced today after being held out due to back spasms, but he termed his availability for the opener as a “game time decision.” It’s possible that Ryan Spooner, who was one of the final forwards cut from training camp, could be recalled from Providence if Krejci can’t go (he may be recalled anyways since the Bruins are currently without an extra forward).
Meanwhile, Carl Soderberg is officially out after being placed on injured reserve retroactive to last Friday, when he suffered a sprained ankle. It’s possible that he could return for Saturday’s game against Detroit, but because he was placed on IR he isn’t eligible to return for a full seven days. Jordan Caron will take his spot on the third line with Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith.
The two biggest names that will most certainly be available tomorrow night will be Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson, who will both make their regular season debuts in the Spoked ‘B’ against Tampa. Iginla had a relatively strong preseason with Krejci and Milan Lucic, and both players are expected to help out a power play that has struggled mightily the past three seasons.
Speaking of which, expect to see captain Zdeno Chara in front of the net on the first power play unit, a relatively big change since the seven footer also possesses the league’s hardest shot. But with teams more actively taking the opportunity for that booming shot away on the man advantage, this is a logical move for the big man.
Bruins Expected Lineup:
Lucic – Krejci – Iginla
Marchand – Bergeron – Eriksson
Smith – Kelly – Caron
Paille – Campbell – Thornton
Chara – Boychuk
Seidenberg – Hamilton
Krug – McQuaid
Tampa Bay is icing a much younger lineup this season in hopes of finding the success that they enjoyed when they took the Bruins to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011. The team recently named veteran Martin St. Louis as team captain, replacing the departed Vincent Lecavalier, a great move for the organization. Tampa of course remains the home of one of the league’s most prolific scorers in Steven Stamkos, who will flank St. Louis on the first line. Ryan Malone should be the other wing on the top unit, though he has been battling the always ambiguous “upper body injury.” He’s listed as ‘probable’ heading into tomorrow night’s contest.
The Bolts also added former Detroit Red Wing Valtteri Filppula in the offseason, who’s expected to play with Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell on the second line. Beyond that, the Lightning have a trio of unproven yet talented youngsters looking to make their mark as part of the third line, and vets Nate Thompson, Tom Pyatt and B.J. Crombeen rounding out the forwards.
Tampa’s problems of late have been on the blue line and in goal, so it will be interesting to see what their performance looks like against a relatively loaded Bruins lineup. Victor Hedman is growing into a solid defender and Matt Carle is a decent puck mover, but the Lightning will need stronger efforts from veterans Sami Salo, Eric Brewer and Keith Aulie if they want to see a real improvement.
Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop will battle it out for number one goaltending duties, a clear upgrade from the netminders of the past few seasons. However the question still remains as to whether either can establish themselves as a difference maker this season.
Lightning Expected Lineup: (from Raw Charge)
Ryan Malone – Steven Stamkos – Martin St. Louis
Alex Killorn – Valtteri Filppula – Teddy Purcell
Richard Panik – Tyler Johnson – Ondrej Palat
Tom Pyatt / Pierre Cedric Labrie – Nate Thompson – B. J. Crombeen
Victor Hedman – Sami Salo
Matt Carle – Radko Gudas
Eric Brewer – Keith Aulie
Ben Bishop/Anders Lindback