Nick Ritchie served as a spectator for the final three games of the Bruins’ first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series with the Carolina Hurricanes.
That won’t be the case Sunday night when Boston opens up its second-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hours before puck drop for Game 1 in Toronto, B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy announced Nick Ritchie would be back in the Black and Gold’s lineup for the series opener against Bolts. Ritchie will play on the left side of Charlie Coyle on Boston’s third line.
The Lightning, of course, present a much different set of challenges for the Bruins than the Hurricanes did. The big-bodied Ritchie, at least on paper, can be a useful asset against a large Tampa Bay team, and Cassidy expects to see improved play from the 24-year-old.
“Ritchie, we expect to be a little better on the walls,” said Cassidy. “With active D for Tampa, as much in the O-zone as anywhere, he has to be aware in his coverage in D zone. Getting inside, Charlie is a good puck protection guy, can separate. Hopefully, Nick can learn to find those soft spots in the O-zone, preferably around the net. Sometimes you can’t always just park yourself in the crease if plays die, then you’re the last guy out of the zone.”
The re-insertion of Ritchie isn’t the only lineup change the Bruins made for Game 1. Anders Bjork also will be back on Boston’s third line after struggling on the top trio in David Pastrnak’s absence and sitting out Game 5 against the Hurricanes.
We’ll see if those adjustments pay off against the second-seeded Lightning. If not, it’s been proven Cassidy isn’t afraid to shuffle things around, even in the thick of the postseason.