Craig Smith is expected to return for the Boston Bruins when they play the New York Islanders in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Second Round at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday.
The forward was unavailable for Boston’s 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2 on Monday because of a lower-body injury. He’s scored three points (one goal, two assists) in six games of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I think that second line (Smith, Taylor Hall and David Krejci) is a little under the radar just because that first line (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak) is focused on so much,” Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “But adding Hall in that group I think kind of brought that second line to a new level. Down the stretch of the regular season, they were really producing, so we’ve got to make sure we watch them not as much as the first line, but they can do just as much damage. We’ve got to make sure we’re watching them as well.
“We played [Smith] in the first game, so we saw him already. We know what that line can do.”
Teams that win Game 3 after a best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 are 366-156 (65.5 percent) winning the series, including 4-2 this season.
Here are 3 keys for Game 3:
1. Take advantage of home-ice advantage
The Islanders are expected to have 12,000 fans at Nassau Coliseum, which would be their largest crowd of the season. They played before 9,000 for their 5-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the first round May 26.
New York’s victory in Game 2 at Boston allowed it to take home-ice advantage from the Bruins, who were 0-3-1 on Long Island during the regular season.
“The Coliseum is a special place, I think, just because so many people have a connection to back in the glory days when they won four straight (championships from 1980-83),” Islanders center Brock Nelson said. “The teams, the players that have come through here, there’s lots of history. It’s a pretty unique building, I think, the way it’s set up and where it is.
“Guys love playing here with a full rink. It should be a good one tonight.”
2. Adjustments on Bruins PK
Special teams played a crucial role in Game 2, when the Bruins were shorthanded three times and allowed two power-play goals.
“The way they set up, they were a little more around the net,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Washington started doing that to us (in the first round) as the series went on. … Our sticks weren’t good enough [in Game 2], they weren’t in the right places right away. Obviously, identifying your 2-on-1s on the PK is the biggest job for the four players on the ice, and that’s where the staff has to help them out as much as possible.
” … At the end of the day, I just thought they moved everything a little bit lower. The first game, they worked from up high. They worked a little lower the last game, so that’s the adjustment we have to be prepared for that they’re going to make lower plays around the net. Our sticks have to be better and we’ve got get under some people around (Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask), and Tuukka might have to be more involved with his stick in those plays too as well. That will be an adjustment for him.”
3. Islanders top line must build on Game 2
Mathew Barzal and linemates Leo Komarov and Jordan Eberle did not score Monday, but they consistently had extended shifts in the Bruins zone and generated several quality scoring chances. Barzal does not have a goal in eight games this postseason.
“Just like any good offensive line, they want to have the puck,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “When they have the puck, they feel it, they get their confidence from it. It’s really important I think for offensive players to have the puck and have zone time, because you see what happens in playoffs when offensive players don’t have the puck, they get a little frustrated. It doesn’t help their psyche. I think the last game was a step in the right direction for ‘Barzy’s’ line for sure.”
Bruins projected lineup
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall — David Krejci — Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie — Charlie Coyle — Jake DeBrusk
Sean Kuraly — Curtis Lazar — Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk — Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly — Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon — Connor Clifton
Scratched: Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, Cameron Hughes, Karson Kuhlman, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka, Jack Ahcan, Jarred Tinordi, Urho Vaakanainen, Nick Wolff, Callum Booth, Jaroslav Halak, Dan Vladar
Injured: Ondrej Kase (upper body), Jakub Zboril (upper body), Steven Kampfer (hand), Kevan Miller (undisclosed)
Islanders projected lineup
Leo Komarov — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Kyle Palmieri — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Travis Zajac
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy — Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
Scratched: Cole Bardreau, Kieffer Bellows, Austin Czarnik, Anatoli Golyshev, Simon Holmstrom, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Dmytro Timashov, Sebastian Aho, Samuel Bolduc, Braydon Coburn, Thomas Hickey, Grant Hutton, Bode Wilde, Ken Appleby, Cory Schneider
Injured: Michael Dal Colle (undisclosed), Oliver Wahlstrom (lower body)
Miller did not make the trip to New York and the defenseman also is expected to miss Game 4 on Saturday. “He’s made some progress, but obviously not to the point where he’s with the team,” Cassidy said. … Wahlstrom, a forward, will miss his fourth straight game. He and Dal Colle, also a forward, are considered day to day.