WINNIPEG The Bruins will be without one of their signature players when they take the ice on Sunday as Milan Lucic has flown back to Boston for personal reasons, according to a report in the Boston Globe. The Bruins power forward had flown with the team on Saturday morning from Buffalo to Winnipeg, and then hopped on a plane headed back home.
The Lucic absence will thrust 38-year-old Jay Pandolfo into the Bruins lineup for the first time after the Bruins signed him to a one-year deal earlier this week. Pandolfo skated on the left wing with the fourth line at the teams Saturday practice at the MTS IcePlex in Winnipeg, and that caused Daniel Paille to be bumped up to the third line and Peverley to be slotted into the left wing spot alongside David Krejci and Nathan Horton.
Lucic has three goals and eight points in 12 games along with a plus-2 rating for the Bruins this season, and has jumped out to one of the best starts of his career after normally experiencing slow starts to the season.
Here are the expected lines and defenseman pairings for Sunday afternoons game against the Winnipeg Jets that represents the first half of the five-game road trip for the Black and Gold:
CHICAGO – Don Sweeney said the Bruins knew and expected they were going to lose one of three players in the NHL expansion draft, and it’s pretty clear it was going to be Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller or Colin Miller leaving the team. The B’s took Kevan Miller out of the equation by leaving him on the protection list after a strong season while also playing some of his best hockey in the playoffs.
That left McQuaid and Miller with each of the two D-men standing an equal chance of getting selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, and the 24-year-old puck-moving Miller going to Vegas for the time being. It remains to be seen if Miller sticks with the Golden Knights, or if there is an eventual plan to flip him elsewhere like perhaps an interested party in Toronto.
Sweeney said the Bruins didn’t want to lose a player with potential like Miller, but it’s also true that he would have been stuck behind younger, better D-men on the depth chart with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as better right-handed options.
“It was an interesting process to go through. It was hard at times because you felt like other teams were able to find deals to keep their team together while you felt vulnerable in that regard,” said Sweeney at the B’s team hotel in Chicago during a Thursday availability with the media. “You knew you were going to lose a good player. You knew they had targeted three players on our team that we felt they would target, and unfortunately we’re losing a good, young player.
“We thought highly of Colin. He was part of a big trade for us and we wish him well moving forward. We thank for him doing his part with the organization. We lost a good player.”
Clearly, the Bruins lost a defenseman with skills and youth on his side, but it’s also a young guy that hasn’t put it all together yet while never posting more than 16 points in each of his two seasons with the Black and Gold. Perhaps he will put together the offensive package at his next landing spot after showing flashes in Boston over the last two years, but that unknown factor while no longer being considered a prospect is the reason he didn’t find himself on the protected D list along with Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.
The Bruins released their schedule for the 2017-18 season Thursday, with their campaign beginning at TD Garden on Oct. 5 against the Predators.
Two things stand out in Boston’s schedule. Eleven of their final 15 games are on the road, and they don’t play the Canadiens until mid-January.
Then, when the B’s and Habs do finally meet, they play three times in an eight-day span. The rivals face each other Jan. 13 in Montreal, Jan. 17 in Boston and Jan. 20 in Montreal. The Bruins’ final regular-season meeting with the Habs is March 3.
To see the full schedule, click here.