BOSTON – The NHL playoffs are a test of depth and both Toronto and Boston have been forced to go to their bench early.
Boston coach Claude Julien says either Dougie Hamilton or Matt Bartkowski will fill in for suspended defenceman Andrew Ference in Game 2 of the Bruins’ series against the Leafs. Ference received a one-game ban for an illegal check to the head of Toronto forward Mikhail Grabovski in Boston’s 4-1 win in Game 1.
Toronto, meanwhile, is looking to shake a lineup that looked sluggish and cowed Wednesday. Plus defenceman Michael Kostka is out with a broken finger.
That could open the door to Ryan O’Byrne and/or Jake Gardiner. Tough guy Frazer McLaren could give way up front with Ryan Hamilton, Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin awaiting their turn.
Whoever has the best talent waiting in the wings could win the day.
“It comes down to depth,” said forward Rich Peverley, who is expected to return to the Bruins’ lineup for Game 2 Saturday night. “L.A. had it last year and I feel we had it two years ago (when Boston won the Cup). Even Chicago (in 2010), look at the depth they had.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve done it all year. It matters what you do in the playoffs. Usually third and fourth lines, whoever can beat the other third and fourth lines, usually you end up winning the game.”
Peverley, who sat out Game 1, could step into the Boston lineup for Kaspars Daugavins. He would play on the Bruins’ third line with Jaromir Jagr and Chris Kelly.
The expectation is that Hamilton will be Julien’s choice with the 19-year-old rookie playing alongside veteran Wade Redden.
A year ago, Hamilton was playing for the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs.
“It’s definitely pretty cool,” said the six-foot-five Hamilton. “It’s definitely weird looking back on it. I think I’ve gotten a lot better in a year and I’m just looking forward to this opportunity.”
Whoever’s in, Boston expects a different Toronto team Saturday night
“We know they’re going to come out a lot harder tonight and we have to be prepared for that,” said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. “We didn’t have the best start last game and let them get the first goal. We have to make sure we correct that and come out hard.”
Carlyle says the Leafs can only get better.
“We’re beating on our group pretty hard here for our inability to do a lot of things,” said the Toronto coach.
“We’ve been a resilient group all year and I’m pretty sure that we’ll be better than we were the other night.
“Because I don’t think we had too much further down to go in the realm of our play. I think we’ve talked enough about the last game. We’re onto the next one.”
Said Leafs forward Leo Komarov: “New day, new game.”
Toronto centre Nazem Kadri says nerves played a part in the Game 1 debacle but the jitters are behind them. And he says the expectations of Toronto fans back home have not gone unnoticed.
“Obviously we’re not happy with the effort and they’re not happy with the effort from last game,” he said. “But the most important thing is we understand that. We’ve gone back to the drawing board and corrected some things.
“That’s why good teams don’t play two games like that in a row. I think it’s going to be a bounce-back for us and that’s how we’re going to be judged, on the response.”