LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Back to backs feel a lot less difficult when the first game was a victory.
The Bruins face their third three-games-in-four-days stretch of the past two weeks, but this time it’s from 3,000 miles away. They took the first game,a 3-0 dominant showing in Anaheim, and have the Kings on tap Saturday night.
“You don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of too many of their forwards,” said defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, back in the lineup from a lower-body injury. “Just make a few clean passes and go from there.”
With Grzelcyk back in the lineup, the Bruins are almost entirely healthy, aside from leading scorer David Pastrnak (thumb). Given what they’ve dealt with, sitting in third in the Atlantic just a point behind the Maple Leafs isn’t a bad position to be in.
But gaining on the Leafs means not leaving points on the table, and though it is yet another back-to-back scenario (the Bruins are 6-2 in the second game of back-to-backs this season), it’s two points against a weak Western foe the B’s need.
Especially for a Bruins team that — again, sans Pastrnak — is the closest the group has looked to full strength, against struggling opponents, it’s a good chance to know what they have.
“I think, we’ve talked about the first half of the year, some of it was injuries,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Some of it was evaluation, some of it is the coach likes to mess around to see what he has. I think now we have a better idea of what we have so we try to be a little more structured in that way, a little more defined in those roles.”
After missing the past four contests, Grzelcyk is back in the lineup while John Moore sits.
Karson Kuhlman will make his NHL debut on the third line, replacing David Backes. Kuhlman was called up from Providence for the west coast trip.
Tuukka Rask gets the nod in net after Jaroslav Halak posted a 30-save shutout in Anaheim on Friday night.
The Bruins will also try Trent Frederic on the second power play unit, using him as a net-front presence. He was also working on the penalty kill during Friday’s morning skate.
About the Kings
The Kings (23-28-6) just dropped a contest in Boston a week ago, succumbing in overtime thanks to a Patrice Bergeron tally.
The Kings have lost three in a row dating back to then, most recently dropping a 4-3 decision to the Canucks on Thursday night.
Los Angeles’ 139 goals are the second fewest in the NHL, with 11 more than the cellar dweller Ducks. At 15.3 percent, the Kings have the fourth weakest power play in the league.
Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 42 points, while defender Drew Doughty has a team-leading 26 assists.
The Kings penalty kill of 75.6 also ranks 30th out of 31 teams, and their 10 shorthanded goals allowed are tied for the second most in the league.