UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Brandon Carlo remained in good spirits Friday, the morning after a head knock against the glass sent him woozily out of Game 3 of the Bruins’ second-round playoff series against the Islanders.
There is a chance, coach Bruce Cassidy said, that the big defenseman could play in Game 4 on Saturday.
“He feels good this morning, better,” Cassidy said in a Zoom call. “Obviously got hit hard last night. I’ll give you an update tomorrow morning whether he’s in or out. He’ll be day-to-day and we’ll go from there.”
The force of the hit from Cal Clutterbuck, Carlo’s wobbly-legged reaction, and his history of concussions made it seem as if Carlo could be out a while. A swift return would be a surprise.
If Carlo cannot play, Kevan Miller will not replace him, though Cassidy shared the good news that Miller skated in Boston. Miller, who has not played since a hit by Washington’s Dmitry Orlov sent him to the hospital during Game 4 of the first-round series, would be an easy swap for Carlo, as both are right-shooting defensemen who defend well and kill penalties.
The possible Carlo substitutes are Jarred Tinordi, Urho Vaakanainen, and Jakub Zboril, all of whom participated in an optional practice Friday at Nassau Coliseum. Zboril, dealing with an upper-body injury of late, appears ready to go. All three are left shots who have played a bit on the right side. Cassidy said he could use Jeremy Lauzon, a lefty, on his off side.
Carlo’s absence would mean more minutes for right-siders Connor Clifton, who played 16:10 in Game 3, and more so, Charlie McAvoy (29:11). The latter worked double time after Carlo was hurt, skating eight shifts with an average length of 1:15 (and a long of 2:01). Those 30-60 extra seconds of burning fuel, even against an Islanders team bent on grinding him down, were nothing for McAvoy.
“He’s going to play and try to drive the game no matter what, whether a guy’s hurt or not, how many minutes he plays,” said Cassidy of McAvoy, who set up Brad Marchand’s overtime winner at the end of a shift that lasted 1:25. “That’s just who he is.
“He impacted the game in many ways last night, offensively on the last goal, carrying the mail through the neutral zone, making a good play physically with a hit on [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau after they had hit Pasta [David Pastrnak] hard, so he responded well there. Big blocked shots on the PK. There’s a number of different ways, all facets in the game.
“Good for Charlie. Teams that advance tend to have that type of D that can log those minutes, play in every situation, and we certainly have one.”
The Islanders will be expected to step up their aggressive forecheck in hopes of exploiting what they’ll perceive as the Bruins’ increasing backline weakness.
Tinordi, brought aboard in February as a waiver acquisition from Nashville, seems likeliest to draw into the back six. He has size (6 feet 6 inches) and heft (205 pounds), and should be able to withstand the physical pressure. He also can serve as enforcer if the heat rises.
Assuming Matt Grzelcyk and McAvoy remain the No. 1 pairing, that would mean partnering Mike Reilly with Clifton and Tinordi with Lauzon.
Reilly had a strong Game 3, landing five of seven shot attempts in 22:29. Cassidy noted how Reilly typically looks to pass, but saw, and took, shooting opportunities. He also used his size and skating to escape trouble and start the rush.
“The good thing about Mike is he doesn’t overextend shifts very often,” Cassidy said. “He doesn’t put himself in bad spots where he’s going to be at a disadvantage. I think he’s a smart hockey player in that regard.”
After Game 3, netminder Tuukka Rask couldn’t fight off the urge to replay the hit on Carlo, which came at 6:06 of the third period. He believes he might have prevented it had he come out of the net to gather the deep pass Matt Martin sent up the ice, instead of chasing it along the boards.
“It was one of those 50/50 pucks that I possibly could have gone there and played it,” Rask said. “But it was going so slow that I decided not to — and then he gets hurt.
As Carlo went to recover the puck, Clutterbuck delivered a clean but crushing hit against the boards that sent Carlo reeling. Carlo staggered to the ice, then tried to get up, only to fall again. He was able to get to his knees, dazed and shaking his head, as medical staff came to tend to him.
“It was tough to see,” Rask said.
Carlo has had two prior concussions in his career. The most recent was March 5, via a head shot from Washington’s Tom Wilson.
“He’s a very valuable D-man for us,” Rask said. “He plays hard. He skates well, moves well, moves the puck well, blocks a ton of shots, plays a hard game. It’s tough to see him go down again.”
After the game, Cassidy tried to remain optimistic.
“It never looks good when you leave like that,” Cassidy said. “But at the end of the day, he was here talking to his teammates, so maybe he’ll be fine.”
Julian Benbow of the Globe staff contributed to this report.