Drew Stafford will play on the left wing tonight for the Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)
Acquired from the Jets less than a week ago, new Bruins winger Drew Stafford has probably yet to settle in off the ice. On the ice, although not as chaotic as packing a two-month suitcase, it’s not much different.
In 28:56 of total time on ice between two games, the 31-year-old Stafford has bounced around the lineup as Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy attempts to figure out his best fit. That bounce has landed Stafford on the B’s second line tonight as the left winger on a line with David Krejci at center and David Pastrnak on the right.
“We’ve discussed this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it didn’t certainly to Drew,” Cassidy said when asked about Stafford’s move from the right side to the left. “We talked about him maybe playing the left side and moving up the lineup, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Stafford has been a definite fit in Boston during his two-game sample in town, with 10 shots on goal (on 14 attempts), along with an assist and a power-play goal that maybe-probably-should-have counted but was overturned via a coach’s challenge.
And though the switch to the left side is not totally foreign to Stafford, who played the left wing on a line with Mark Schiefele during his time with the Jets, there’s still an adjustment that will need to be made for both No. 19 and Krejci.
“You play more on your backhand in certain situations, if there’s time and space in front of the defense, you get on your forehand, The challenge will be figuring that part of it out,” Cassidy informed the media when asked about putting Stafford, a righty, with two righties in Krejci and Pastrnak for tonight’s game. “And Krejci likes to play catch through the neutral zone in certain areas, so if he decides to go that route with Stafford he’s on his backhand. But I’ve seen a lot of dominant right lines, [Stafford] was on one in Winnipeg. We saw it here years ago with the Ryder-Wheeler-Krejci line. They were pretty good.”
Playing with Krejci is not always the easiest transition for a player to make, but a veteran of over 700 games, it’s fairly reasonable to expect the experienced Stafford to handle the task as well as anybody else on this current roster could.
“He definitely looks like he likes to pull up a little bit and hang onto the puck a little bit more,” said Stafford. “I’ve been playing against him for a long time, and I know he likes making some of those little saucer [pass] plays.
“We’ll figure out, they’re great players, so it should be easy.”
Stafford’s chance on the left side does come at the expense of Peter Cehlarik, though, who will sit as a healthy scratch.
“Offensively he still makes plays, he’s got some chances, he’s a little bit snakebit,” Cassidy said of Cehlarik. “If we’re sitting here and he had three or four goals, it might be a different conversation, but the facts are he doesn’t, even though the chances were there. If this were early in the year, you might let it play out a little longer, but it’s not, so we’re going to try Stafford.”
Cehlarik has two assists and eight shots on goal in 10 games with the Big B’s this season.
Tuukka Rask is expected in the B’s net. He took the loss in Monday’s 4-2 final to the Senators with 25 saves on 28 shots against, and comes into action with 30 wins (including six shutouts) and a .913 save percentage in 52 games this season. The 29-year-old Rask has eight wins and an .890 save percentage in 16 career games against the Red Wings.
This is the fourth and final meeting between the B’s and Wings this season.
Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes
Drew Stafford – David Krejci – David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano – Austin Czarnik – Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller – Colin Miller