The Bruins had two of their regular defensemen available for Tuesday night’s game against the powerful Hurricanes, as another one departed the lineup.
Both Matt Grzelcyk, who missed the last two games while in COVID protocol, and Connor Clifton (four games) were cleared.
Mike Reilly, however, will be out indefinitely after testing positive. Reilly, who scored a pretty goal Saturday against Nashville, had become a lineup fixture on the second pair next to Brandon Carlo. He has a career-high four goals and five assists in 32 games.
Grzelcyk, one of the league’s better puck-movers from the back end (2-12—14 in 34 games), slotted in next to old partner Charlie McAvoy.
Urho Vaakanainen continued his development next to Carlo, replacing Reilly.
Clifton, who normally plays the right side on the third pair, bumped AHL veteran Tyler Lewington out of that spot. Lewington, who has played in two games on emergency recall, has averaged 12 minutes, 27 seconds of ice time.
The 23-year-old Vaakanainen (four assists in six games) has been earning trust in his latest call-up, having logged 21-plus minutes in each of his last three games. His interception and outlet feed started the sequence that led to Taylor Hall’s overtime winner Saturday.
Derek Forbort, who was on the COVID list for three games before returning against Nashville, reunited with Clifton. Forbort is one of the Bruins’ top penalty-killing defensemen — a necessary role against any opponent, but particularly against offensively dominant Carolina.
Numbers don’t lie
As always, Brad Marchand is determined to get the last word when another player comes at him.
Tuesday morning, a reporter asked hard-charging Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck, who has occasionally tangled with Marchand during his years in Florida and Carolina, if his playing style was similar to Marchand’s, “in an agitating kind of way.”
“You saying I’m a rat?” replied a smirking Trocheck. “Nah, that’s fair,” he added, without elaborating.
Marchand, seeing this, responded with a since-deleted Instagram post.
“This is like comparing a Lambo to a Prius,” he said, referring to the $200,000 Italian luxury car and the humble, eco-friendly ride.
To drive home the point, he included images of his career stats (season high: 100 points) and Trocheck’s (season high: 75 points). He also shared a list of the top 10 scorers of the last five years; Marchand ranks fourth, with 384 points. Trocheck (214) would be 82nd.
The reporter’s question centered on stirring the pot, not scoring. Clearly, both are good at the former.
Carolina, meanwhile, was without middle-six winger Martin Necas (COVID protocol), replacing him with veteran Derek Stepan, a healthy scratch in Saturday’s win over the Canucks … The visitors also happily slotted No. 1 defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who spent the last two games on the COVID list, in their formation … The Bruins made no lineup changes up front … Tuukka Rask drew his second start in goal but only lasted the first period, allowing five goals in the 7-1 loss … The Hurricanes started 14-2-0, followed that with a 1-4-1 stretch, and are 11-2-1 since. One of those losses came Thursday against Columbus (6-0), their only shutout loss of the season … Carolina entered the game having killed 35 straight penalties going back to Dec. 7. But the streak ended there, as Patrice Bergeron scored a power-play goal in the first period … The Bruins’ third line (Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle, Oskar Steen) and fourth line (Anton Blidh, Tomas Nosek, Curtis Lazar) were on the ice for all four five-on-five goals (two each), and outshot, 17-6. The Hurricanes racked up a 13-4 scoring chances edge (per Natural Stat Trick) when the Bruins’ bottom six were out there ... David Pastrnak landed just five of his 13 attempts on goal ... Bergeron finished underwater in the faceoff circle (10 for 23, 43 percent) for the second game in a row ...The NHL is expected to soon announce games that will be played in the February stretch set aside for the Olympic break. Two of the dates for Bruins games are believed to be Feb. 10 and 21, the latter a Monday matinee. Opponents are not yet known.