Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand ready to return, OK with playoff injuries

The Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand, front, protects the puck from the Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner, left, during first-period action in Game 6 of their NHL first-round playoff series in Toronto on May 2. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Boston Bruins captain Brad Marchand wasn’t too outraged over the disputed hit he took that’s sidelined him for the past two games. Because in his view, hurting players comes with the territory in the postseason.

“The more guys you take out, the more advantage your team has,” Marchand said Thursday on the eve of Game 6 against Florida as the Bruins try to avoid playoff elimination. “People don’t say that but that’s just a fact of the game. So every time you step on the ice, someone’s trying to hurt someone. That’s just how it goes in the playoffs.”

Marchand may be back in the lineup tonight after being out since being staggered on a hit to his head from Panthers forward Sam Bennett in the first period of Game 3. Bennett, who was not penalized on the play, denies punching Marchand intentionally.

Asked if he thought it was a cheap shot, Marchand said, “I think he got away with one but, I mean, that’s part of the game and definitely part of playoff hockey.

“It sucks to be on the other side of it, but that stuff happens,” Marchand added as his team trails 3-2. “I’m not going to sit here and complain about it. … Part of playoffs is trying to hurt every player on the other team.”

Colorado Avalanche left wing Artturi Lehkonen, right, celebrates the team's 4-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers with goaltender Pavel Francouz following Game 2 of their NHL playoffs Western Conference finals on June 2, 2022, in Denver. (AP file photo)

Similar to Boston, Colorado returns home tonight with a chance to avoid elimination against Dallas. Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and the Avalanche rallied to grab a third-period lead Wednesday and relied on the stellar play of goaltender Alexandar Georgiev to secure a 5-3 win. It was the first lead of the series for the Avalanche, other than Miles Wood’s overtime winner to end Game 1.

“It was great,” MacKinnon succinctly said of playing from ahead as the Avalanche drew to within 3-2 in the series. “It was do-or-die and we just couldn’t lay an egg again.”

The Avalanche are trying to make some team history, because never have they won a series in which they trailed 3-1. Under that circumstance, they’re 0-5 and only once have sent a series to a decisive Game 7. That was in 2020, against Dallas in the second round. That was also a unique situation, when the games were played inside the Canadian bubble during the pandemic-impacted season.

“It (Wednesday’s game) was the first full 60 of this series for us,” MacKinnon said. “If we can keep doing that, I like our chances.”

The win by Colorado guaranteed that all four second-round series will go a minimum of six games. That sort of balance in round No. 2 has only occurred five other times in NHL history, according to league research. The last time was 2017.

The Avalanche regrouped in Dallas on Wednesday after being surprised by the news that Valeri Nichushkin, the team’s top playoff goal scorer with nine, was suspended for six months without pay as he entered Stage 3 of the league’s player assistance program. The team found out just before Monday’s 5-1 loss to the Stars.

With time to process and move on, the Avalanche played more like the version that won the Stanley Cup title in 2022.

“You’re playing desperate hockey now,” said Makar, who had two goals Wednesday. “Everyone’s got to play on the edge.”

The Avalanche had the league’s best home record during the regular season, but have lost two straight on home ice in the Dallas series.

For Game 5, Colorado coach Jared Bednar split up the talented tandem of MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. MacKinnon played alongside good friend Jonathan Drouin and Artturi Lehkonen, while Rantanen was frequently paired with Zach Parise and Casey Mittelstadt. Both lines came through.

“At some point, you might need to change it to get a spark,” Bednar said.

The Stars missed a chance to clinch and get some extra rest.

“We’re not trying to close it out so we can get more rest,” said Stars forward Joe Pavelski, who scored his first goal of the 2024 playoffs on Wednesday. “We’re trying to close it out so we can move on, however we get it done.”


FLORIDA at BOSTON, Panthers lead 3-2, 7 p.m. EDT (TNT)

Given an extra day between games, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery expects players to have more energy.

Fans, too. But please, be patient.

“When your fans start to boo you, it impacts your players. It just does,” Montgomery said. “It’s not a lack of effort. Players aren’t not trying to win. They are. Sometimes, you’ve got to be patient. … It’s easier to be patient on the road. You can be down 1-0 and you can still play your game. Those things factor in. They just do.”


DALLAS at COLORADO, Stars lead 3-2, 10 p.m. EDT (TNT)

The Stars are 20-3 all-time in a best-of-seven series when they hold a 3-2 lead.

“The fourth (win) is always the hardest,” Dallas forward Jason Robertson said.

Colorado found its form on special teams Wednesday by scoring two power-play goals. The Avalanche were 0 for 8 over the previous three games.

“It’s having that different mentality, that attack mentality, and not trying to back down, or trying to look for the perfect play,” Makar explained.


AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.


AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl


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