Source: Thornton still a question mark for Game 3

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Source: Thornton still a question mark for Game 3

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

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.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.  

Saturday, April 29: The race for the top pick in NHL Draft

Saturday, April 29: The race for the top pick in NHL Draft

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while tipping my hat to the Celtics after an emotional, impressive showing against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

*It’s a tight race for the No. 1 overall ranking headed into this summer’s NHL Draft and it also doesn’t necessarily seem like a surefire superstar player right off the bat either.

*The New York Rangers seem to have a little more respect for the “underdog” Ottawa Senators headed into Game 2 of their series.

*Speaking of the Senators, it looks like they may once again have the best player in the series with the dominant Erik Karlsson at the top of his game while presiding over the best-of-seven playoff match.

*The Carolina Hurricanes are rolling the dice that they can sign Scott Darling to be their No. 1 goalie before he gets to unrestricted free agency.

*PHT writer James O’Brien helps break down the method that the Vegas Golden Knights are going to use to build their team, but the bottom line is they don’t want to be boring.

*Milan Lucic is enjoying the ride with the Edmonton Oilers as they’ve taken a 2-0 lead in their series against the Ducks.

*For something completely different: Interesting news about M. Night Shyamalan, who is making a sequel that will tie together two of his hit movies.