It looks as if the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins will both be making some lineup changes for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC; Live Stream).
Let’s start with the significant news on the Boston side where the Bruins might have all of their top defenders in the lineup for the first time since the beginning of the series. After missing the past four games, Matt Grzelcyk has been cleared for action and is officially listed as a game-time decision. If he plays, and it seems extremely likely that he will, he would replace Connor Clifton.
Grzelcyk has been sidelined since early in Game 2 when he was on the receiving end of an illegal check from Oskar Sundqvist, resulting in a one-game suspension for the Blues’ forward.
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It remains to be seen how much of an impact he can make since he hasn’t taken any contact since the injury, but the Bruins have definitely missed his ability to move the puck.
“I think your adrenaline will carry you through,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy on Wednesday.
“The one thing about Matt if he does go in after missing some games is he’s been skating with us. It’s not like he just jumped on the ice yesterday. He’s been participating, albeit non-contact, so there is a little bit of a different animal there. At this time of the year you’re not into a lot of contact in practice anyway so he’s just going to have to understand, because he did obviously live the first whatever it was, game and a half with St. Louis, he knows they are physical. He’s been there. He’s been watching. He knows he’s gotta get back in a hurry, make good decisions with it, take a hit to make a play if that’s what is required, which it usually is against this team. That’s the challenge in front of him. We’ve had discussions with him about it and he’ll be ready for it.”
Two of the three Bruins’ losses in this series came in games where they were forced to finish with five defenders due to injury with Grzelcyk exiting Game 2 and Zdeno Chara being forced to miss most of Game 4 after being hit in the face with a puck. While Chara has not missed any further game action, Grzelcyk’s absence has been significant.
“If he’s able to come back and help us tonight, he’s an incredible puck mover,” said Bruins defender Charlie McAvoy. “He’s just kind of had that fire in his eye for the playoffs. He’s been playing awesome for us, and we’ve missed him terribly since he’s been out. He just gives us that extra jolt when it comes to breaking out. He’s a gifted puck-mover. If he’s back to night, I think he’ll do his job and help us out even more.”
On the St. Louis side, forward Ivan Barbashev will be returning to the lineup after missing Game 6 due to a suspension for an illegal check to the head.
He will replace rookie forward Robert Thomas on the team’s fourth line next to Alex Steen and Sundqvist.
That is not the only change the Blues will be making.
Coach Craig Berube also said that Joel Edmundson will be drawing back into the lineup in place of Robert Bortuzzo.
Why the change? With Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko playing so many minutes on the right side Berube wants to go with four left-handed defenders in his lineup.
“With Parayko and Pietrangelo on the right side, they’re just eating so many minutes up; there’s not a lot of minutes over there,” said Berube. “So, we decided to go with the four lefties, and what he can bring, he can bring a lot. I mean, he’s got some real good upside, shoots the puck well, big guy, big body, physical player, but he does do some things well in the offensive zone, so I like his shot.”
Edmundson played sparingly over the first four games of the series, recording zero points and finishing as a minus-3 in his limited minutes. Bortuzzo scored a goal for the Blues in Game 2 of the series in Boston and also scored a game-winning goal in the Western Conference Final series against the San Jose Sharks.
Edmundson will skate on the Blues’ third defense pairing alongside Vince Dunn.
“I played in I think three Game 7s now so this is going to be my fourth. None of them compare to this one,” said Edmundson. “Obviously it’s going to be the biggest game of my life. But everyone’s excited.”
Edmundson said his first reaction upon finding out that he would be in the lineup was to text his parents, who were already planning on attending the game. One member of his family not attending the game? His brother, Jesse, who has apparently been bad luck throughout the series.
“They were coming,” said Edmundson when talking about his parent’s plans. “My brother (Jesse) stayed back because he thinks he’s bad luck. He’s been bad luck throughout the series, so he stayed back, he’s taking one for the team.”
Whatever it takes.
More Blues-Bruins Game 7
• Blues vs. Bruins: Three keys for Game 7
• The Wraparound: It is all on line for Blues-Bruins
• Which Blues, Bruins player will get Stanley Cup handoff?
• Conn Smythe watch
• Stanley Cup roundtable discussion
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.