With the 2021 NHL regular season officially now in swing, the Boston Bruins will get their first taste of the new schedule format as they face the New Jersey Devils for the second time in three days.
The Bruins play their first matinee during the shortened 56-game season with a Saturday afternoon tilt against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ today (1 PM ET, NESN, MSG+).
Time For Things To Get Uncomfortable
This will be the second of a two-game set against the Devils at ‘The Pru’ before The Bruins then make the hour-long trip to Long Island to play the Islanders at 5 PM ET on Martin Luther King Day.
One would expect the hard feelings and animosity to grow as NHL teams adopt more of a Major League Baseball-type schedule with multiple games against the same team in the same city with the second of two straight games against the Devils. Add in the fact that Miles Wood and the Devils crashed the Boston net hard a handful of times in Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout win, and the Bruins have some grievances to air headed into Saturday afternoon.
Bruce Cassidy and the B’s addressed protecting the goalie following Thursday night’s game, and one would expect they talked about making life uncomfortable for the opposing netminder as well.
“Clearly that will be talked about [on Friday]; that part of it because that’s not something we want to be a trend and we have plenty of guys in our lineup that can take care of business in that regard,” said Cassidy.
Boston Bruins Changes
After a quiet opening night for Jack Studnicka, Anders Bjork will get inserted at right wing on the top line in place of the Boston Bruins rookie forward. Studnicka finished without a shot on net and a minus-1 in 11:04 of ice time while Bjork was active while playing on the third line with Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle.
Bjork finished with three shot attempts and a takeaway in 13:56 of ice time while using his speed and tenacity to make an impact, and he was previous chemistry with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in previous stints with them. It was all predicated on Craig Smith (lower body) being able to play on Saturday afternoon after he practiced with the Bruins on Friday after missing the season opener.
“Some of it depends on Craig Smith. He was skating today, so people get moved around. Obviously, Trent Frederic, Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka, if the rest stay in then you’ve got two spots for three guys,” said Cassidy. “So, we wanted to make sure we put [Bjork] in that position to get a few reps. He’s been in that position before and moved around throughout his whole time year. The good news is if that’s the case then you’re always in the lineup, but the bad news is that you don’t really ever develop chemistry with anybody.”
Smith was confirmed to be playing on Saturday by Bruce Cassidy, and the 21-year-old rookie Studnicka will be a healthy scratch for the second game of the 2021 NHL season.
#NHLBruins practice lines:
Marchand – Bergeron – Bjork/Studnicka
DeBrusk – Krejci – Kase
Ritchie – Coyle – Smith
Frederic – Kuraly – Wagner
Lauzon – McAvoy
Grzelcyk – Carlo
Zboril – Miller
Moore/Vaakanainen – Clifton
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 15, 2021
Otherwise, the Bruins will start Jaroslav Halak for the first time this season on Saturday afternoon vs. the Devils after deliberating about potentially playing him Monday vs. the Islanders. Halak will continue to get close to an even split of the goaltending workload during the regular season as he has the last couple of years, so it’s no surprise he ended up with the Saturday matinee shift.
Ritchie Making an Impact On Special Teams
There may have been some gripes about Nick Ritchie getting power play time during Boston Bruins training camp, but those complaints are long gone now after the big power forward scored a PP goal on opening night. It made two straight seasons that one of the Ritchie Brothers has scored in the season opener for the B’s after brother Brett Ritchie scored in last season’s road opener against the Dallas Stars 15 months ago.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy explained that it was a split-power play after 4-on-4 play that wound up with Ritchie on the top power play unit for a spell, and that’s where Ritchie tapped in a Marchand cross-ice pass for Boston’s second goal of the game.
“We moved Ritchie in front. A little bit of that was the 4-on-4 right before that with [Charlie] Coyle out there, so then I put [Brad] Marchand on the half-wall and Coyle in front for the third period. Marchand has been on the half-wall and the net front, and that was just an adjustment that we saw,” said Bruce Cassidy. “New Jersey has their D’s play away from the net a little bit and getting into Patrice Bergeron’s shooting lane. So, I thought maybe if we played a little closer around the net then maybe we’d get some second chances and it worked out on Ritchie’s goal. The second goal we had talked about that back post play and it worked out for us.”
Ritchie normally anchors the second unit as the net-front presence and could be a big impact player on the man advantage for the Black and Gold if he can use his massive size and strength to good advantage.
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
The Boston Bruins enter Saturday morning with 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalie on the active roster.
Not on the roster are Greg McKegg, Par Lindholm and rookie Urho Vaakanainen, who are on the trip and will be part of the Taxi Squad. Rookie goalie Dan Vladar was the extra goalie at practice on Friday and is the lone Taxi Squad goalie for this trip.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Anders Bjork
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie-Charlie Coyle-Craig Smith
Anders Bjork-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner
Jeremy Lauzon-Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk-Brandon Carlo
Jakub Zboril-Kevan Miller
New Jersey Devils Lines
Per old friend and current New Jersey Devils team beat writer and host, Amanda Stein, here’s what you might see for the New Jersey Devils this afternoon when the puck gets dropped for the Saturday matinee. Both PK Subban and Ryan Murray got maintenance days at Friday’s practice, but are expected to play again Saturday against the Boston Bruins.
#NJDevils practice lines are the same as yesterday’s game.
🚕: Foote, Merkley and Maltsev made up a fifth line.
🔹 Subban and Murray, absent
🔸Butcher and Carrick made up third pairing
🥅 Blackwood practiced practiced the first 15 minutes. pic.twitter.com/hu8CRVRwPh
— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) January 15, 2021