Coach Bruce Cassidy has reconfigured the Bruins' back end for Friday night's encounter with the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
Cassidy announced the changes after Thursday's practice at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton.
Cassidy realigned the first and third units while leaving the second defensive tandem of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo intact. Cassidy will pair team captain Zdeno Chara with Connor Clifton while reuniting his Boston University connection, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk.
* We see it as more equitable if Clifton goes with Z. We are going to give it a go,” said Cassidy. * He (Clifton) matches better with the size factor a bit and we always thought of Griz and Clifton as two good players but are they an ideal pair?
* This allows Charlie to free up a little more on the offensive side of things and maybe not get a heavy matchup every time over the boards. Z is better matched up with strength. We'll see with each game how long it lasts but that's the thinking.”
The rash of defensive breakdowns, odd man rushes and breakaways in the last two games against Pittsburgh and Montreal were the rationale behind Cassidy's alterations.
The Bruins needed a three-goal rally in the third to beat the Penguins 6-4 on Monday before dropping a 5-4 decision at Montreal on Tuesday. Pittsburgh and Montreal are both winning teams, but 9 goals allowed in two games was an issue Cassidy needed to address.
* The last two games we played were good fast hockey teams,” said Cassidy. * Both games could have gone either way and we had breakdowns defensively that cost us in Montreal. Specifically, holding our dot line coverages and they were walking into some good looks. We addressed that today and our focus is more on that.”
The changes are likely to affect the ice time of the four players involved. With special teams play factored in, McAvoy averages a team high 21:51 minutes per game while Chara is second with 21:37.
Krug is third with 20:47 minutes but he logs considerable ice time on the Bruins first power play unit. Carlo is close behind with 20:06 minutes per game.
The biggest adjustments will be made by Grzelcyk, who will likely see his 17:37 minutes expand on McAvoy's flank. Clifton has been averaging 15:08 minutes per game. As an aside, Cassidy said injured defenseman Kevan Miller is about a week to 10 days away from joining the active roster.
* Balance the pairs a little bit and allot the hockey minutes a little more,” said Cassidy. * Griz and Charlie have had good relationship from BU, they played well together so I'm not worried about that. Z and Clifton, I haven't seen much so we'll see, that will be of interest. But I thought Cliffy brought much more of his style of play the other night. He was physical attacking with the puck and it's something we want to see more out of him.”
With the exception of Krug's two goals and 10 assists, back-end scoring is down this season. Despite missing time from ailments and injuries, McAvoy had seven goals and 21 assists in 54 games last season. He added two goals and six assists in the playoffs. McAvoy has four assists in 15 games this season.
* We are trying to make plays, trying to do it while taking care of the puck in our end,” said McAvoy. * It's something that just comes and there is a tendency when you try and force it too much, that's when it goes the other way. I'm just trying to play and I feel like every game I'm doing stuff. I'm confident in what I'm doing and trying to get up in the play, make plays, trying to find guys. I think opportunities are coming and I'm trying to break through.”