WILMINGTON — With Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Pittsburgh Saturday night, the host Penguins will have the last change, so Bruins coach Claude Julien spent part of Wednesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena mixing and matching his defensive pairings.
Captain Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the top tandem, started out as a pair but were split up for line rushes later in practice — Chara paired with Johnny Boychuk and Seidenberg teaming with Matt Bartkowski.
The third pairing of Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid remained intact.
Julien said the moves were no different from the shuffles he made during the regular season with his defensive pairings.
“It’s good because you saw us during the season,’’ Julien said, “and we mixed and matched. You guys kept asking a lot of questions about that and I said, ‘You know what? It’s important that we continue to do that, because they’re all going to have to play with each other.’ ”
The presence of Andrew Ference, who remained paired with Aaron Johnson in his second day back practicing with the team, could force Julien’s hand to scratch Bartkowski, a Pittsburgh native who performed admirably during Ference’s absence with a lower-body injury.
“Guys who can play right who are left shots, and vice versa, or playing with different players and learning how to do that,’’ Julien said. “During the game, we still mix and match pairs sometimes. It’s not necessarily set pairs that you see on the ice all the time.”
Waiting on CBC
The NHL finally released the schedule for the Eastern finals Tuesday night following the conclusion of the Los Angeles-San Jose series.
“Well, we know where we’re going now,’’ Julien said. “At one point, you wanted to show some video and do some different things. You didn’t want to do it too early. You wanted to do it at the right time.
“What was tough was we weren’t quite sure when we were going to start. We had an idea, but nothing was confirmed.
“At least with a schedule, you know what you can do on every single day and certainly able to prepare a little bit better.’’
The Eastern series could have started earlier than Saturday, considering that Pittsburgh eliminated Ottawa last Friday and the Bruins booted the Rangers Saturday. But the NHL ceded to CBC, its primary TV rights-holder.
CBC had first pick on whether it would air the East or West finals, and wanted Boston-Pittsburgh. CBC also wanted to make a splash by opening the series on “Hockey Night in Canada,” its Saturday staple.
Praise for Julien
After his team was eliminated by the Bruins, Rangers coach John Tortorella — who was fired Wednesday — was asked about Boston’s chances against Pittsburgh.
“I think Boston has a really good chance,’’ Tortorella said Saturday. “I think Claude and that staff has done a heck of a job with their club.
“I can’t believe some of the people, how they second-guess him, just being in the city for a few days, and the type of job he’s done here. That’s a good team. They’re very well-coached and they’re seasoned.’’
Apprised of Tortorella’s comments, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton echoed the sentiment.
“It’s been six years now, and I think we’ve been pretty successful since he’s been here,’’ Thornton said. “You’re right, some of the criticism is probably unwarranted. He continues to prove people wrong.
“But when you have two [sports] talk radio stations, talking 24/7, I guess you’ve got to [complain] about something.’’
Good as ever
Julien said he didn’t detect much change in Jarome Iginla’s game, now that he has assimilated himself into Pittsburgh’s second line, with James Neal and Evgeni Malkin.
“He’s the same as he was in Calgary and probably has some players who can certainly feed him a little bit more,” said Julien. “On the power play, that’s one thing, but also five on five, he’s playing with some pretty good players.
“I don’t think his game’s changed at all. I don’t think he should’ve changed his game. He’s well-respected for the way he plays.
“He’s a real good power forward, a strong individual who goes up and down the ice and can shoot the puck extremely well.”