The Boston Bruins (24-7-11, 59 points) put their nine-game point streak on the line as they host the Edmonton Oilers (21-17-5, 47 points) in the first of two meetings on the season. With illness spreading in the room, the Bruins lines could shake up this afternoon.
This will be a star-studded game as the Oilers and Bruins combine to have four of the top five scoring forwards in the NHL. The sides will finish the series in Edmonton in February.
Puck drop is 1:00 pm on NESN, ESPN+ and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
A Unique Challenge
Connor McDavid has won two Art Ross Trophies, two Ted Lindsay Awards and a Hart Trophy in his young career. In the eyes of many around the league, he is the best player the NHL has to offer right now. His skill is undeniable, and he has caught the eyes of everyone around the league. That includes the Bruins, who only see him twice a season.
“He’s a challenge every night,” Bruce Cassidy told the club’s official website. “He plays in all situations. You can never shut him down, but if you can contain him, you can minimize the damage. Obviously keep the puck out of his hands as much as possible. It’s easier said than done. Puck possession for those other guys that are playing against him, finding him early.”
McDavid scored the Oilers only goal in their visit to TD Garden last season. He set up Leon Draisaitl for the overtime winner exactly one week later when the sides met at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
“It’s a unique challenge in how good he is, but there are other teams that we certainly key on certain guys, guys that we try to chase out of [Jack] Eichel’s hands, [Patrick] Kane’s, you know, different guys that have come through here, that dynamic,” Cassidy continued.
All four Bruins lines will need to be ready today.
Cassidy To All-Star Game
The NHL announced it’s four All-Star head coaches on Friday. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will coach the Atlantic Division and join Atlantic Division captain and Bruins winger David Pastrnak as well as Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to represent the spoked B in St. Louis January 24-25. Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron could end up there as well if he is voted in by NHL fans via the “Last Man In” vote.
“It’s an honor, that’s what it means to me,” Cassidy told the media after Bruins practice Friday. “Obviously a reflection of the players, what they’ve been able to do this year on the ice. You know I get the benefit of it, and I thank the staff as well, we all work hard to do our part every day. But obviously, the players perform on the ice, so they’re the ones that should be thanked first. But for me again, it’s an honor, I’ve never been to one, so I’m looking forward to it.”
All In The Family
For Jake DeBrusk, this game means a little more. DeBrusk is from Edmonton and his father, former NHL’er Louie, occasionally does work as a color commentator on Edmonton Oilers broadcasts. DeBrusk grew up a fan of the team in his backyard. Louie also played for the Oilers during his career.
“Obviously some pretty good players, some pretty elite company there,” DeBrusk told reporters at Warrior Ice Arena. “They’re my hometown team, so I obviously keep tabs on them and understand how good those two players are as well. They’ve got a different look this year, our first meeting, got to be aware while they’re on the ice, that’s for sure.”
DeBrusk finished his junior career in Alberta, playing for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. His last ever regular season game just happened to be the final WHL regular season game played at Rexall Place, the building in which his father played in as a member of the Oilers.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork – Par Lindholm – Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
John Moore – Matt Grzelcyk
Bruins lines are subject to change. Connor Clifton (upper-body) has yet to resume skating six days after his injury. Chara, Marchand and Nordstrom all missed practice on Friday but are expected to play. Nordstrom had a doctor’s appointment, while Chara and Marchand are dealing with illnesses. Halak is the confirmed starter, as per Cassidy.
Edmonton Oilers Lines
James Neal – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Joakim Nygard – Gaetan Haas – Alex Chiasson
Jujhar Khaira – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Oscar Klefbom – Ethan Bear
Darnell Nurse – Kris Russell
William Lagesson – Adam Larsson
Russell did not skate with the team at BU on Friday, but coach Dave Tippett told the media that it was a maintenance day. Russell is expected to play this afternoon. Caleb Jones, Patrick Russell and Sam Gagner are the scratches for the Oilers. Yamamoto, named an AHL All-Star yesterday, has two points (1 g, 1 a) in his first two games in the NHL this season. Edmonton’s powerplay (30%) ranks first in the entire NHL.