BOSTON (CBS) — With Charlie McAvoy suspended for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, the Boston Bruins have to find a new dance partner for Zdeno Chara in their top defensive pair.
At Wednesday’s practice, that new partner was Connor Clifton. But what that means for Game 1 on Thursday night, Bruce Cassidy wouldn’t say.
“We like Krug and Carlo, but depending on how they set their lines, Z and Carlo could be a good matchup on certain lines,” Cassidy explained after practice. “Z and [Grzelcyk] have played together; that would leave two righties at the bottom. So it might be Clifton getting some shifts with Z. I think you’re going to see some different combinations depending on the circumstances.”
The 24-year-old Clifton has been on Boston’s third defensive pair in place of the injured Kevan Miller. In his eight playoff games, Clifton has averaged 11:37 of ice time and is a plus-1 overall. He has two points, assisting on a goal in each of Boston’s last two games.
“I guess that was the line today. Really exciting, obviously he’s a great guy to play with,” Clifton said of skating with Chara on Wednesday. “He’s a really vocal guy, so I think that will help me a tremendous amount, especially when the Garden gets going [Thursday night].”
But filling McAvoy’s skates will be no easy task for the Quinnipiac product. McAvoy leads all Boston defensemen at 24:46 of ice time this postseason, and has been a key part to the Bruins’ power play and penalty kill. With a goal and five helpers this postseason, McAvoy has been one of the most important players on Boston’s blue line.
Cassidy also said that he is still undecided whether veteran John Moore or Steven Kampfer will take McAvoy’s roster spot, but Kampfer skated in McAvoy’s spot on Boston’s second power play tandem on Wednesday.