It should be all but confirmed, all though the lineup changes are usually left to a game-time decision when it comes to playoff games, that the imposing Captain of the Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara, will make a return to the lineup tonight after missing game 2 of the first round playoffs matchup between Montreal and Boston. Chara's absence from the lineup was dearly felt by Boston. His time on the ice, irreplaceable by any Boston defender, and the turn-overs simply accumulated, directly resulting in two of the goals scored by the Montreal Canadiens.
Chara was reported to be feeling well, in good spirit and humors, and skated with his team during the morning skate today. He was wearing the white jersey, indicative of inclusion in the lineup while Shane Hnidy, Chara's replacement in game 2, was wearing the black jersey, along with Tyler Seguin, who should be another obvious scratch for tonight's game. While Coach Julien said that it looked good for the big Z to be back tonight, he did not offer any confirmation of the fact. Bruin's Patrice Bergeron was also quoted as saying that it would be good to have their Captain back on the ice with the team.
For Montreal, head coach Jacques Martin did not offer any confirmation on whether ailing forward Jeff Halpern and Andrei Kostitsyn will be back in the lineup tonight. Halpern was seen playing alongside David Desharnais during the morning skate. The return of Jeff Halpern could mean that defenseman Yannick Weber, who scored his second playoff goal against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, will be left on the side.
Coach Martin may also be faced with another decision if Andrei Kostitsyn returns to the lineup along with Jeff Halpern. Kostitsyn was seen playing with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri. It may become hard for Martin to tweak a winning lineup and the question will be between Pyatt and White. While Ryan White has provided good physical presence on the ice for Montreal, Tom Pyatt has been a player to rely on in defensive circumstances. The fact of the matter is, Coach Martin has been getting 100% from each and every player in the Habs jersey and that has been the major reason behind the Habs stealing the first two games at the Garden.
There were also some questions involving Bruins' Tim Thomas, whether he will return for the game three at the Bell Center or whether Bruins' head coach Julien will give the job to the backup netminder Tukka Rask. Based on keen observations by CTV's Arpon Basu, it seems likely that Tim Thomas will be the starting goaltender tonight as well for the Boston Bruins. While Thomas has not played bad in the first two games, he has given some huge rebounds that have resulted in goals. Without Zdeno Chara's long reach to clear those rebounds in front of Thomas, he was left in a vulnerable position in the second game. With the return of Chara, one can't help but wonder if the costly game two rebounds have left any doubts in Tim Thomas' mind.
The puck is set to drop at 7:30 PM EST and the match will be televised on CBC and RDS.