If Boston plans to change anything strategically with Washington center Nicklas Backstrom suspended for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Bruins certainly weren’t talking about it after a brisk morning skate at Verizon Center Thursday.
Boston Coach Claude Julien did not show his lines during the 45-minute practice that featured some light power-play work, and he emphasized afterwards that the Bruins aren’t focused on the absence of one player from the Capitals’ lineup.
“They’re a very good team without him, and our game plan doesn’t change because our game plan wasn’t based around Backstrom. It was based around the Washington Capitals,” Julien said. “We’re gonna continue making adjustments because of what we want to make as adjustments, but not because of certain players.”
Backstrom, as you’re well aware by now, will be relegated to a suit and tie Thursday night after the NHL upheld the one-game suspension that came as a result of his match penalty for cross checking Rich Peverley at the end of Game 3. The Capitals issued a statement Wednesday saying they disagreed with the league’s decision.
But Julien and the Bruins know well what Washington is capable of even without Backstrom centering one of the Capitals’ top lines. Washington faced Boston four times while Backstrom was sidelined for 40 games with a concussion and emerged with three wins – a 5-3 victory back on Jan. 24 at Verizon Center, a 4-3 win on March 10 in Boston and a 3-2 shootout triumph in Washington on March 29.
“We’re not gonna take them lightly just because he’s out of the lineup,” center David Kreiji said.
Added defenseman Zdeno Chara: “Everybody knows he’s a great player. We just have to focus on what we do and really just be ready to play [however] they replace his spot in the lineup. It’s something that we really have to be aware of, that we don’t get caught up in thinking about it, that they’re missing one guy.”