For the first time since March 10, their last game before the March 12 NHL Pause due to the COVID outbreak, the Boston Bruins will play a regular season game!
The Bruins kick off their shortened 56-game season against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ tonight (7 PM ET, NESN, MSG+).
UPDATE: Following their first gameday skate of the 2021 season, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told the media that forwards Brad Marchand and Craig Smith are game-time decisions. Cassidy indicated that Marchand was more likely to play than Smith. Marchand also seemed confident that he would lace them up for the season opener.
Time To Shake The Dust Off Their Suits
This will be the first of a two-game set against the Devils at ‘The Pru’ as they will do battle again on Saturday afternoon in a 1 PM ET Matinee. The Bruins then make the hour-long trip to Long Island to play the Islanders at 5 PM ET on Martin Luther King Day. The three-game roadie to start the season will be a much-needed dose of normalcy for the Bruins players and a chance to bond with some of the new faces on the squad this season.
“It’s one of the most welcomed parts of this whole thing,’ veteran grinder Sean Kuraly said with a Cheshire grin. “I might have some dust on this suit — I haven’t had my suits out in a while.”
Head coach Bruce Cassidy concurred that this was maybe one of the most welcome road trips in a while after he and so many other husbands, Dads, and boyfriends had been cooped up with family and significant others for so long thanks to COVID.
“Yes, getting into your normal routine will be good for everybody,” Cassidy said. “Good for the players, probably for the wives, too … ready for their husbands to get back to work.”
Boston Bruins Changes
The left side of the Boston Bruins defense saw a major overhaul this past offseason as longtime captain Zdeno Chara signed with the Washington Capitals and veteran powerplay quarterback Torey Krug signed with the St. Louis Blues.
Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney did not bring in any external reinforcements as he and Team President Cam Neely decided to commit to a youth movement on the blue line. With the left side losing a point machine and leader in Krug and an even greater leader and the largest player in the NHL in Chara, those voids will now be filled by Matt Grzelcyk, 26, and two 23-year-old rookies Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril.
Up front, Sweeney did go external as he signed on forwards Craig Smith and Greg McKegg. McKegg will start the season on the taxi squad but Smith instantly earned a spot on the right wing of center Charlie Coyle with Nick Ritchie on the left side of the third line.
Even though he played in the NHL Return and Stanley Cup playoffs over the summer, promising rookie forward Jack Studnicka can be considered a new face as well. The team’s top prospect will have the honor of filling in for the injured David Pastrnak (hip surgery) on the right wing of ‘The Perfection Line’ with Bruins superstars Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Different Look On Special Teams
Speaking of changes, with Krug gone, Grzelcyk will start the season as the new power play quarterback. With reigning co-Rocket Richard winner in Pastrnak out until early to mid-February, center Charlie Coyle has moved up to the top unit to join Grzelcyk, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
McAvoy will quarterback the second unit.
PP1: Matt Grzelcyk, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Charlie Coyle
PP2: Charlie McAvoy, Ondrej Kase, Jake DeBrusk, Craig Smith, Nick Ritchie
Boston Bruins Lines
As of 10 PM ET on Wednesday evening, the Boston Bruins roster had 12 forwards (including Par Lindholm who was waived on Wednesday), eight defensemen, and two goalies.
Not on the roster was McKegg and rookie Urho Vaakanainen, who are both on the trip, will be part of the Taxi Squad. Rookie goalie Dan Vladar was the extra goalie at practice Wednesday and is expected to be the lone Taxi Squad goalie for this trip.
That’s a 22-man roster and three-man Taxi Squad. The Bruins could still add another player to the main roster and four more players to the Taxi Squad on this trip but not tonight as rosters were due at 5 PM ET last night.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jack Studnicka
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie-Charlie Coyle-Craig Smith
Anders Bjork-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner
Extras: Trent Frederic, Par Lindholm
Injured: David Pastrnak (Hip), Karson Kuhlman (COVID Protocol)
Jeremy Lauzon-Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk-Brandon Carlo
Jakub Zboril-Kevan Miller
Extras: John Moore, Connor Clifton
New Jersey Devils Lines
Per my old friend from Montreal and current New Jersey Devils team beat writer and host, Amanda Stein, here’s what you might see for the New Jersey Devils tonight when the puck gets dropped on the season for both teams.
By the way, Amanda does an amazing job for the Devils and is a great source for up-to-date and insightful Devils news!
— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) January 4, 2021