TAMPA – The Bruins’ schedule is about to ratchet up a notch.
Over the next 10 games, the Black & Gold will battle against eight teams that are currently within the playoff structure. And it all begins with Monday night’s tilt against the rival Tampa Bay Lightning, the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, at Amalie Arena.
“This is a really good test. We’ve played a lot of home games this year. This is always a building that gives us a good test. We want that,” said Taylor Hall. “I think at this point in our schedule, we’re starting to look at teams that are very good hockey teams. The next seven games are all teams that you could conceivably see winning the Cup this year and all teams that have had really good seasons prior to this.
“We’re excited for that challenge. We’re looking forward to that. It’s great to win 6-1 and everything but we want to test our mettle and face some adversity, because we know that’s coming, and see what we’re made of in those situations.”
The Lightning, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021, before falling to the Avalanche in the Final last spring, have won four straight games to get above .500 (11-6-1, 23 points) and slide into third place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of Detroit and one point back of Toronto for second.
“We know the schedule. It will be a good challenge for us. We’ve got to take it one game at a time like we always say…it’s a good Tampa team here,” said Coyle. “They’ve been playing pretty good as of late. We want to make sure that we bring our game and we’re ready to go and see how we do against them,” said Coyle, who also acknowledged the rivalry the Bruins and Lightning have built up over the last handful of years.
“When you think of it like that, it kind of gets you more prepared and more focused. They’re a solid team. They have been for a few years now. They’ve had a lot of success, won some championships. They ‘re no joke over there.They’re a good team.
“It’s not hard to get geared up for these teams and this game. If you want to call it a rivalry you can if you want. That’s only gonna help us get focused and ready to go.”
Switching It Up
The Bruins will have a bit of a different look within the forward group as Hall bumps down to play with Coyle and Trent Frederic and Pavel Zacha shifts up to skate alongside David Krejci and David Pastrnakforming two trios that finished the third period together during Saturday night’s win over Chicago.
“I’m gonna continue with what worked well in the third period,” said Montgomery. “[Hall] scored with Coyle and Frederic and I really liked Frederic on the right wing, too. I thought he was moving his feet more to generate more offense. I like him defensively in either spot.
“The Czech line has produced really well. It was just an opportunity – we have eight forwards in the top three lines that I’m gonna mix and match throughout the year. Charlie Coyleyou see me use him on the right wing at times and second line center to close out games, especially.”
Along those lines, Hall noted that the players are getting used to playing in different spots throughout the lineup, which has helped them to build chemistry and feel confident no matter which line they end up on.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re out there with,” said Hall. “Even our fourth line, there’s so many good players on this team. We all have a system in how we need to play, it’s all similar throughout the lineup. With Monty, he’s not afraid to shuffle lines during games. It’s been nice because you get to play with everyone, and you get shifts with different guys.
“It’s not like last game when he switched it in the third period that I haven’t played with Coyler or Freddy this year. We’ve had shifts together. It speaks to our depth and just the overall strength of our forwards and our team .”
Wait, There’s More
- Nick Foligno took a puck to the chin during a power-play drill at Monday’s morning skate and was forced to leave the ice for stitches. The veteran forward, however, is expected to be in the lineup against Tampa. “He’s a hockey player,” said Montgomery. “They don’t come much tougher than him. He’ll be fine.”
- Patrice Bergeron enters tonight’s game with 999 career points. He is set to become the fourth Bruin in history to hit the 1,000 mark, joining Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339), and Phil Esposito (1,012). “It’s amazing. There’s not much left to say about Bergy and how good of a hockey player he is first and foremost,” said Hall. “But as a captain and a leader it’s been incredible to share a room with him for the last couple years. To be so strong at one end and to be able to contribute 1,000 points at the other is really icing on the cake for what’s been an incredible career for him. We’re all lucky to be his teammates.”
- Nikita Kucherov paces the Lightning with 28 points through 18 games and is tied with Steven Stamkos for the team lead with 10 goals. Brayden Point (18 points), Mikhail Sergachev (18 points), Alex Killorn (14 points), Brandon Hagel (13 points), and Nick Paul (11 points) help round out an always dangerous offensive attack. Goalie Andre Vasilevskiy is 7-5-1 with a 2.84 goals against average and .909 save percentage.
Monday’s Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk
Pavel Zacha – David Krejci – David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall – Charlie Coyle – Trent Frederic
Nick Foligno – Thomas Nosek – AJ Greer
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Hampus Lindholm – Brandon Charles
Anton Stralman – Connor Clifton