Brandon Carlo is day to day with an unspecified injury and it’s unknown if the Boston Bruins defenseman will be able to play in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Second Round against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
The Bruins lead 2-1 in the best-of-7 series following a 2-1 overtime win in Game 3 on Thursday but finished the game with five defensemen after Carlo was injured on a hit by Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck 6:06 into the third period.
“He feels good this morning, better,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said Friday. “Obviously, he got hit hard last night. I’ll give you an update tomorrow morning whether he’s in or out. But he’ll be day to day, and we’ll go from there.”
If Carlo is unable to play, it will further test the Bruins’ defensemen depth that is already stretched thin with Kevan Miller out with an unspecified injury. Miller hasn’t played since being injured on a hit by Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov in Game 4 of the first round.
Although Miller has been skating, he is not with Boston on Long Island and will remain out at least until Game 5 on Monday.
Cassidy said Jarred Tinordi and rookies Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen will be the three options to replace Carlo if he can’t play. Neither Zboril, who hasn’t played since Boston’s regular-season finale against Washington on May 11 because of an upper-body injury, nor Vaakanainen has previously played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Tinordi played in Game 5 of the first round against Washington, when Miller and Jeremy Lauzon were out. The 29-year-old has played in 10 NHL playoff games with the Montreal Canadiens (five in 2012-13), Nashville Predators (four in 2019-20) and Bruins.
Tinordi has been a healthy scratch since Lauzon returned for Game 1 against the Islanders after missing four games with a hand injury.
Another issue for the Bruins is the possible replacements are all left-hand shots and Carlo shoots right-handed. That will leave Boston with two healthy right-handed defensemen — Charlie McAvoy and Connor Clifton — and four who are left-handed — Matt Grzelcyk, Mike Reilly, Lauzon and Tinordi, Zboril or Vaakanainen.
Having Lauzon play on his off side is one of the possibilities the Bruins are considering.
“One of those guys will have to find a comfort level if that’s what we have to do and take Brandon out,” Cassidy said. “Or we may have to be creative in-game with playing four left sticks and two righties and giving the righties a lot of ice time. I’m not saying they’d play half the game, but a little more than usual and try to minimize a guy going to his off side.”
Though Carlo has no points in eight games in the playoffs, he is second on Boston averaging 22:30 in ice time after averaging 18:43 and scoring four points (three goals, one assist) in 27 regular-season games. Filling those minutes will probably place a heavier burden on McAvoy and Clifton.
McAvoy played a game-high 29:11 Thursday, including 10:52 in the third period and 2:14 of the 3:36 in overtime, and the 23-year-old leads the Bruins averaging 27:06 in ice time in the playoffs. Clifton has averaged 18:16 in ice time in seven games, mostly on Boston’s third pair, since beginning the playoffs as a healthy scratch.
Clifton played 16:10 Thursday, including 6:09 in the third period and 1:22 in overtime.
“In Charlie’s case, he’s directly impacted because it’s going to mean more minutes for him and probably Clifton in that regard as well,” Cassidy said. “And then for the forwards to make sure you’re supporting the ‘D’ more and not putting them in spots where they have to extend shifts. I thought we did a good job with that last night, picking the ‘D’ up because we were a little bit limited, Charlie specifically.”
The extra minutes didn’t prevent McAvoy from carrying the puck up ice through the neutral zone before passing to forward Brad Marchand, who scored the overtime winner from outside the left circle. McAvoy is tied with Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche for second among defensemen in the playoffs with eight points (one goal, seven assists), behind Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who has 10.
“He’s going to play and try to drive the game no matter what,” Cassidy said. “Whether a guy is hurt or not, how many minutes he plays, that’s just who he is, and he impacted the game in many ways last night.”