The Bruins evened the best-of-seven series at a game apiece with a 6-5 victory in Game 2 on Tuesday night at TD Garden. Rookie Tyler Seguin, playing only his second Stanley Cup playoff game, notched a four-point night with a pair of goals and added two assists.
Because of that success and the youthful spark he contributed to the lineup, Bruins coach Claude Julien announced Wednesday afternoon that Seguin would be in the lineup for Game 3 whether Patrice Bergeron (concussion) is back or not.
"I'm going to tell you right now he's going to be in the lineup [Thursday]," Julien said. "That's for sure. You don't pull a guy like that out of your lineup that's been very good. He's earned it and he deserves to be in the lineup and that's what we want to see."
Two team sources told ESPNBoston.com on Thursday morning that, barring a last-minute setback, Bergeron will be back in the lineup for Thursday's Game 3.
Bergeron has been the Bruins' best all-around player in the Stanley Cup playoffs and his absence has been noticeable in the first two games of this series against the Lightning. His teammates are hoping for his return Thursday.
"When he comes back it's going to make our team stronger," Bruins forward David Krejci said.
Julien will have some decisions to make Thursday morning. With Bergeron cleared to play, and with Seguin cemented into the lineup, Shawn Thornton could be the odd man out.
"We still have some decisions to make, but I'll be honest with you, I liked what I saw of that line," Julien said of the Seguin-Chris Kelly-Michael Ryder combination. "The three of them played well together."
If Julien keeps the Seguin-Chris Kelly-Michael Ryder line, and if Bergeron is back on his line with Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand, that means Rich Peverley could move to the team's fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille.
Seguin and Ryder have played together at times this season and their synergy was evident in Game 2. Ryder seems happy with the combination.
"We played during the season a few times and we had chemistry," Ryder said. "I don't know what it is, we just get a good read off each other. Last game, with Kelly in the middle, he did a great job and he's a talker, so it helps a lot. The three of us have a feel for each other on the ice. We know where we're going to be and we read off of each other really well."
Despite what happens in Game 3 and for the rest of the series, Seguin made sure to take the time and enjoy his performance from Game 2. Seguin spent Tuesday night at his apartment in Boston with some friends, watching the highlights of the game, and he admitted he was pretty fired up about his accomplishments. He's also mature enough to know he needs to turn the page because the focus needs to be on Game 3.
Julien was asked on Wednesday afternoon if he has to say anything to the rookie in order to keep him focused and even-keeled.
"I don't think we need to do much, to be honest with you," Julien said. "He's been a real good individual all year long and he's matured through this whole process. He understands the values this game brings to you day in and day out. The one thing about Tyler, he's not the type to get that way. He's a very modest individual and he's been great to work with all year."
The organization made sure to treat his development in a careful, thought-out manner. There were numerous discussions during the season and Julien believes the entire process has made Seguin a better player.
"What happened to him [Game 2] is so great. It's exciting for all of us," Julien said. "As a coach, when you see a young player play the way he did [Tuesday], it bodes so well for this organization and for him. You hope that continues and he's the type of player who can give you that almost on a nightly basis. He's going to be that kind of an impact player. [Tuesday] was just the start of something that's going to continue to grow."
It became evident early in Game 2 that Seguin was playing as physical as he had all season. He was using his body and finishing his checks and that's one of the reasons why he felt comfortable and poised.
"That was one of the things that maybe held him back a little bit during the year," Julien said. "Again we say he was 18 years old, he goes from playing against boys to playing with men. And you've got to feel your way through here. You've got to get comfortable. You've got to know that you can go into traffic and it's going to be OK, and you can hold your own."
Seguin did hold his own in Game 2, and as a result he produced offensively in a big way.
"I think that's the part of the game that he really had to get comfortable with, and from what we've seen lately, it doesn't seem to be an issue and that's really helped his game a lot. But by being able to feel comfortable out there, all of a sudden, your skill set really starts to show a lot more."
Seguin admits to trying in the past to get on the scoreboard quickly, but he now realizes he performs better when he gets involved more from a physical standpoint.
"I need to bring that compete and battle level to my game and it's working out," Seguin said.
With Bergeron back and Seguin coming into his own, the Bruins could have the advantage for the remainder of Eastern Conference finals.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.