By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON The Bruins are set to take the ice Monday night for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks, and there are whispers Shawn Thornton could be in the lineup to counteract the antagonizing methods used by some of the Vancouver players.
Thats far from set in stone, however.
A team source indicates no decision has been made to play Thornton, and Thornton's potential Finals debut will likely be a game-time decision. Theres a very good chance the Bruins will continue with the same lineup that includes players adept at keeping pace with the fast-skating Canucks.
Thornton, the Bruins' enforcer, has been a healthy scratch since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Patrice Bergeron missed the first two games against the Lightning because of post-concussion syndrome, and Tyler Seguin was impressively offensively in his absence. When Bergeron returned, coach Claude Julien kept Seguin in the lineup and deactivated Thornton.
It appears, however, that playing Thornton is a very real consideration, given the tenor of the first few games in the Cup Finals. Alexandre Burrows bit Bergeron in the finger in Game 1, and a grinning Maxim Lapierre taunted Bergeron by waving his own finger in Bergeron's face in Game 2, and there was a) no punishment by the league and b) no retaliation by the Bruins.
Thornton's presence, if nothing else, would put the notion of retaliation into the Canucks' consciousness.
Youre going to see 23 guys out there on the ice Monday night for warmups and well some decisions after the warmup, said a very coy coach Claude Julien on Monday nmorning.
Thornton would certainly bring some energy to the lineup, and is a guy both well-respected inside the dressing room and feared outside of it so there could be a role for him against a Vancouver team thats been free to take liberties against Boston players like Bergeron.
But theres also a question as to which player Thornton would replace. Seguin and Daniel Paille are the natural candidates for Thornton to replace, and both are special-teams players for the Bruins who do more than simply fill a role on the fourth line. Thornton can neither kill penalties (as Paille does) or take a spot on the power play (Seguin).
That being said, Julien wants to see more physicality out of the Bs fourth line during the spare shifts when they are out on the ice. Manny Malhotra gave his team a lift by winning six of seven faceoffs in his return after a nasty eye injury, and the Bruins need those kinds of intangibles from their own fourth line.
We feel that our fourth line . . . is certainly capable of matching that," said Julien. The Canucks' fourth line, he said, is "throwing their body around. We need to throw our body around as well, finish our check like weve done all year.
"This is a seven-game series. We know that eventually it takes its toll. I dont think they have a different mindset than we do, because theyre being as physical as we are.