BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Bruins are making the most of their week off before the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, trying to figure out the best way to take down the top team in the East.
Most of those decisions will come on defense. Injured blue-liner Andrew Ference is making strides to a return, which will make head coach Claude Julien decide if he should go back to the veteran or stick with rookie defensemen Torey Krug and/or Matt Bartkowski.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich on Thursday, and said those decisions won't be made until game day.
"It will be last minute probably. We've thrown around a bunch of ideas, a bunch of pairs. Coaches have to break down the matchups and situations," said Chiarelli. "It's a work in progress, that decision. My guess is it would be closer to Saturday morning – not that you guys will know Saturday morning."
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Another change may hit the Boston blue line, thanks to Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Because of their star power, the Bruins may have to break up their defensive duo of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg -- at least on the road.
"It is unique in that these are maybe two of the best players in the world on one team," Chiarelli said of Crosby and Malkin. "It's a unique type of coaching and scouting breakdown for that reason. I think we have four lines that can be comfortable with defending either of those lines. You saw Claude send out our fourth line at times at home against the Nash line (against the Rangers), and they did a good job. We have a team that can defend well on the matchups. You'll probably see Chara and Seidenberg together at times, and times – more likely on the road -- when they're apart."
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The Penguins took all three of the regular season matchups with Boston, and head into the series heavy favorites to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
"We are underdogs, but I don't mind being in that position. Frankly, if you look at our three games, of the nine periods I really like six of them, so I like the matchup," said Chiarelli. "I like the way we played in those six, and if we can play that way it will be a real good series and we have a chance to win."
"I liked our forecheck; I think that was really good," Chiarelli said of the "good" periods against Pittsburgh in the regular season. "In two of the games they came back when we were leading, so we didn't protect the lead, but I liked the way our forecheck matched up against their defense. That's the strength of our game, and we have to make sure we get pucks behind these guys and close quickly."
As for the three bad periods, Chiarelli said his team was more focused on protecting the lead– something you can't do against the Penguins.
"We sat back a little bit and tried to protect the lead. When you do that against a team as powerful as them you're bound to give up chances, and we did. You can't do that," he said. "But I saw us close nicely the other night in Game 5 (against New York); we just kept our forecheck going and that's what we have to do against this team."
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