BOSTON – Five days after leaving Game 2 against the Hurricanes with an upper-body injury following a heavy hit from Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov, Bruins blue liner Hampus Lindholm was back on the ice with his teammates for an optional practice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena as Boston prepared for Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 in Raleigh.
“He’s skating today, I’ll get an update on him from the medical team,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “I’m not gonna rule him out [for Game 5] but I’m not putting him in either right now…I have to hear from the doctors that he’s cleared…if he’s cleared, he’s in. If he’s not, then we’ll list him as probable for the next game. But the fact that he’s out there skating is always a positive sign.”
Charlie McAvoy, meanwhile, remains in COVID-19 protocol and did not skate on Monday, though Cassidy said Boston’s No. 1 defenseman is “feeling better.”
“Same information from me. Doctors will let me know when he’s out of protocol,” said Cassidy. “I’m not sure how he gets out of protocol, I just know they’ll let me know when he’s out. I spoke to him [on Sunday], he’s feeling better. So that’s a positive. When he’s available, I don’t have an answer today for that.”
Video: Cassidy speaks with media on Monday at WIA
Cassidy said that Jeremy Swayman will get the call for Game 5, marking his third consecutive start between the pipes for the Black & Gold. It will be just the third time this season that Swayman starts three straight games.
“He’s out there today. It was optional, completely optional. So, that’s a good sign that he’s not overly fatigued,” said Cassidy. “I think an afternoon game helps recovery. I think he likes to work as well. He knows that every day he can do a little something.
“I’m not that worried about three games. I’d be worried more if it was seven in a row or something like that. There’s a little bit of that momentum that you carry, gives you some energy at this time of the year that you might not have in the January, February times of the year.
“Right now, he does not look like he’s fatigued in there. He’s certainly had work but not to the point where it should affect his overall play. Until I get feedback from him, that’s what we’ll do. We’re always keeping an eye on it…but that’s probably more as the ball gets rolling.”
Video: Russo and Pastrnak chat about game four against CAR
With McAvoy and Lindholm sidelined, the Bruins defense corps has had to pick up plenty of slack. And Boston’s third pairing of Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton – a duo that has been together for much of the year – has been up to the challenge.
Forbort led all Bruins in ice time – both overall (23:07) and shorthanded (6:46) – and blocked shots (nine) in Game 3, while Clifton paced all Boston blue liners in Game 4 with 20:16 of ice time and six hits.
“Playoff hockey…we’ve played together pretty much all year,” said Clifton. “We’ve finally got some chemistry. We’re playing good, we’re playing fast, we’re defending hard, and we’re playing hard. Honestly, it’s been going really well for us. Just got to keep that up, that energy.
“Collectively, we’re all gonna pick up a couple more minutes. No one’s gonna replace what Charlie brings to the table and the minutes he plays…play the best game we can as the six D that are in.”
Clifton, in the midst of his fourth postseason with the Black & Gold, has now played 40 career playoff games.
“It’s easy to get up for these games,” said Clifton. “Obviously 82 in the regular season, we did our job, we made it to playoffs, we got our opponent – and now it’s time to lock in and play how we can as Bruins.”
Cassidy complimented the grit that both Clifton and Forbort have brought to the table during this first-round series against the Hurricanes.
“Cliffy’s physicality has been excellent – counter-hits, finishing guys, annoying guys that way,” said Cassidy. “Forbort on the PK, blocking shots, getting in the way has been good. They’re playing to their strengths. Now they’re feeling good about their game and their puck play has been good enough to help us get going the other way.
“They’ll have to keep working on that. But I think that’s what’s happened with them. I think they also look around – Lindholm’s not in, McAvoy’s not in, someone’s got to step up, why not me?”
Video: Clifton speaks with media on Monday at WIA