George Whitlock will make his Super 14 debut in McCaw's usual openside flank role in a much changed line-up, with Reuben Thorne returning to the blindside and the captaincy.
Casey Laulala will play his 50th game for the Crusaders at centre.
Hamish Gard makes his first start at fly-half, with Stephen Brett returning to the bench after five weeks out with a shoulder problem, while lock Brad Thorn starts among the replacements despite a calf problem.
Both Brett and Thorn will be analysed again before kick-off.
"We're managing our resources, but it's fair to say that this week is providing us with a significant test, both on and off the field," Deans told crusaders.co.nz.
"Obviously injuries have played a part in stretching our resources this week."
Those resources have been further stretched by disciplinary measures which have seen winger Kade Poki and scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'I omitted after missing training sessions.
Canterbury halfback Steve Alfeld will replace Fotuali'I on the bench, one of only two available backs not starting.
The Lions have made six changes from their defeat to the Highlanders last week, with Springbok Joe Van Niekerk back at number eight.