BOSTON – With Nathan Horton out for the rest of the playoffs, the Bruins will have to decide on who fills Horton’s void on the top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. That is the million-dollar question heading into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks tonight at the TD Garden.
This doesn’t deny the Bruins will miss Horton — the team’s second leading scorer this postseason with 17 points (8 G 9 A) — and his contributions will be hard to replace. But it’s a realization that the Bruins will need to be a resilient bunch again.
At this point, all of this is speculation. No one will really know for sure who is skating with Krejci and Lucic until the Bruins hit the ice, except for Krejci, who wouldn’t reveal anything at the morning skate.
“Listen, you don’t know who I’m playing with. I do, but I’m not going to tell,” Krejci said.
That said both Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder skated with the top line in the Bruins’ 8-1 win in Game 3 and those two are the leading candidates going into Game 4.
Either way, players are going to have to step up in another pivotal game, one which the Bruins can tie the series at two games apiece before heading into Vancouver for Game 5 Saturday night.
“It’s not easy to play without one of your best players,” Krejci said. “But everybody knows here that we have to pick up our game. I think last game [Game 3] we did exactly that.”
If needed on the top line, Peverley will try to use his speed and agility to his advantage to compliment the crafty playmaking skills of Krejci and the physical presence of Lucic.
“Well if I’m there I’ll just try to use my speed and get on the forecheck,” Peverley said. “Obviously they are both skilled players and Lucic is pretty good down low. So hopefully I can just get in and establish a good forecheck.”
With Horton out, Tyler Seguin will return to the lineup after sitting in the press box for Game 3 as a healthy scratch. Shawn Thornton, who saw his first game in the Cup Finals in Game 3, will also play for the second straight game.
Against a great team like the Canucks, the Bruins will need to get contributions from all 20 guys – with or without Horton – to come out on top.
“It’s going to take [a great effort] from everyone,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “That’s what it’s going to take to beat this team.”
Although Horton is out of the lineup, the Bruins have been pretty accustomed to replacing a key player in the lineup as seen in the first two games in the Eastern Conference finals without Patrice Bergeron.
“Obviously you can’t replace a guy like Hort’s,” Seguin said. “Everyone just has to step up just like when Bergy was out, all the guys had to step up even more. And that’s just what everyone is going to ask out of each other for tonight’s game.”
This post also appeared on The Hub of Hockey