The Boston Bruins are contemplating making changes to their third line in search of an offensive spark heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Second Round against the New York Islanders at TD Garden on Monday (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, TVAS).
The Bruins are coming off a 4-1 loss in Game 4 on Saturday that evened the best-of-7 series. They were limited to a series-low 29 shots on goal, including 19 at even strength, and four of those shots were generated by their third line of Nick Ritchie (one), Charlie Coyle (one) and Jake DeBrusk (two), who were also on the ice when Islanders forward Mathew Barzal scored the tiebreaking goal with 6:57 remaining in the third period.
“The third line didn’t generate much last night,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said Sunday. “Well, it didn’t generate anything, to be honest with you. They’ve had better games. Obviously, a breakdown on the last goal. I think our winger (DeBrusk) dove down. We should’ve had more patience and let them get to the middle of the ice, and that kind of snowballed from there where guys were a little late because we didn’t do our job first. So that part of it hurt us.”
Cassidy said Karson Kuhlman and Trent Frederic are the most likely options to enter the lineup if the Bruins decide to make a change. Kuhlman had an assist in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders in Game 2, when Craig Smith was out with a lower-body injury. Frederic, a 23-year-old rookie, is seeking to make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.
Although Cassidy declined to discuss which forward would come out of the lineup, he seemed to suggest it might be DeBrusk, a left-handed shot who is playing right wing, when he mentioned “left wingers having to go their right side.”
DeBrusk, whose 11:22 of ice time in Game 4 was his lowest in the playoffs, has not scored in his past five games after scoring three points (two goals, one assist) in the first four games of the first round against the Washington Capitals.
The 24-year-old was healthy scratch for three games during the regular season, when he scored an NHL career-low 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 41 games.
“We’ll make that decision tomorrow,” Cassidy said. “I don’t want to do that through [the media]. We talk to the players and make sure we drill down and see what’s the best fit for us.”
It remains unclear whether Bruins defensemen Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller will be available to play Monday. Miller hasn’t played since Game 4 of the first round because of an undisclosed injury but skated in the an optional practice Sunday. Carlo, who sustained an undisclosed injury on a hit by Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck in Game 3 on Thursday, also skated.
“Those two guys, I will be better able to answer that tomorrow,” Cassidy said.
Regardless of who’s in the lineup for the Bruins in Game 5, Cassidy said they need to play better than they did Saturday to regain the series lead.
“The guys recognize that,” he said. “It’s not a secret it wasn’t our best. Having said that, we want to be mindful of it was 1-1 in the third period. We had a chance to win the hockey game not being at our best, so that’s a positive for us understanding that to win you typically need to be at your best. So let’s get there. Let’s get to that level.”