One potential feel-good story line we’ve been watching is the health of Canucks forward Manny Malhotra. Malhotra is attempting to get back on the ice for the Stanley Cup finals after nearly losing his vision in March due to a puck that caught him in the eye. While Malhotra was cleared for light contact last week to practice with the team, Malhotra hasn’t participated in the team skates the last two days casting doubt as to whether or not he would play in Game 1 tonight at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
As it turns out, Malhotra isn’t quite ready to complete his miraculous recovery from what was nearly a career-ending injury and will not play tonight. Canucks assistant GM Lorne Henning confirmed today that Malhotra would not play and getting the start on Vancouver’s fourth line instead will be young center Alexandre Bolduc. Bolduc has played in just two playoff games this year and has averaged 4:39 of ice time in those games.
With Malhotra close to coming back, his return to the ice will provide a huge emotional lift to the Canucks and while they may not need that kind of inspiration, the fact that he’s as close as he is impressive enough. If Malhotra is able to get back in the lineup and contribute the way he did in the regular season, it shifts the focus of how the Bruins need to prepare as Malhotra is one of the better defensive forwards on the team and a faceoff specialist. Vancouver’s done well in the playoffs without him, but a healthy Malhotra added to that lineup makes them that much more dangerous.
It’ll be up to Boston to take advantage of Malhotra’s absence and try to expose both Bolduc and Maxim Lapierre as potential weaknesses at center as they’re not likely to get the same kind of break from either Ryan Kesler or Henrik Sedin. Expect to see David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron to do their part to make that happen as much as they can. Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly will also do their part to mix things up and make life tough up the middle for Boston.