The Boston Bruins (10-2-2, 22 pts) are finally back at home for the first time since Jan. 28 as they host a game at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils (5-3-2, 12 pts) tonight (7:05 PM ET, NESN, MSG+) in Boston.
It ends a span of nearly three weeks and six games where they played road games against Philly, Washington, New York and the Islanders with a quick three-day stop at home in between home game postponements. Needless to say, the Bruins are happy to be home.
“It’s great to be home,” said Charlie McAvoy. “It’s always nice to have that comfort, sleep in your own bed and be at your home base. It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve been at the Garden, so it’ll be great to get in there tonight and play a game.”
The Devils are riding a two-game winning streak and were victorious over the Rangers in their first game back from a long COVID-19 pause. The Devils and Bruins split the first two games of the season in New Jersey with the Bruins winning a 3-2 shootout on opening night, and then dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to the Devils where Egor Sharangovich scored his first NHL goal as the overtime game-winner for the Devils.
The Bruins are a perfect 4-0-0 in four home games at TD Garden this season and have outscored opponents 18-8 in those games. They lead the East Division with 22 points and have a chance to extend that lead prior to a couple days off while traveling to Lake Tahoe for Sunday’s outdoor showdown with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jaroslav Halak (4-0-1, 1.38 GAA, .938 save percentage) will get the call between the pipes for the Bruins tonight after last playing on Feb. 12 and Mackenzie Blackwood (3-0-1, 1.92 GAA, .948 save percentage) will get the start for the Devils after stopping 35-of-37 shots against the Rangers on Tuesday night.
– Charlie Coyle didn’t make any terrible mistakes by any means in last weekend’s loss to the Islanders, but there are games on the schedule where the Bruins need somebody from the secondary group to step up and have a big game if they hope to win. Coyle was just “okay”, as he’s been for the last few weeks, and finished with just a single shot on net in 14:14 of ice time, had a couple of giveaways and lost 9-of-15 face-offs while finishing a minus-1 as well. Coyle and Anders Bjork had some good scoring chances early in the game they couldn’t capitalize on and then seemed to really go invisible after that for the rest of the game. Coyle now has just two goals and four points in 14 games this season and really hasn’t contributed much offensively as the third line center with two shots on net or less in each of his last five games. The Boston Bruins could use Coyle stepping up his game.
– Both John Moore and Connor Clifton will be in for the Boston Bruins with Matt Grzelcyk (lower body) and Jakob Zboril (upper body) out for Thursday night’s game against the Devils, and already having been ruled out for Sunday’s game in Lake Tahoe as well. Moore made his NHL season debut last weekend against the Islanders and played a whopping 23:45 of ice time with a couple shots on net. Moore practiced on the second PP unit this week as well, so it looks like he may be getting some time on the man advantage with usual PP guys Grzelcyk and Zboril both out.
– After not playing in the Bruins’ 1-0 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night, Grzelcyk has now missed eight of the Bruins’ last nine games with a variety of lower-body injuries. He is listed as day-to-day and had an MRI last week.
Forward Ondrej Kase (upper body) remains on injured reserve and has also been ruled out for the Lake Tahoe game, but has begun skating on his own at the Bruins facility. There is no timetable for him to return until he is able to practice with the team.
– The Bruins went 0-for-6 on the powerplay in their last two games and are now 12-for-40 on the man advantage. They’re eighth in the NHL with a 27.3 percent success rate.
-The Boston Bruins PK allowed a PP goal to the Islanders in Saturday’s loss after killing six Rangers power plays the previous night at Madison Square Garden. They’ve now killed 38 of 44 powerplay attempts against and are second on the PK in the NHL with an 88 percent success rate.
– Mackenzie Blackwood hadn’t played in over two weeks but hopped into the net against the Rangers on Tuesday night and stopped 37-of-39 shots in what’s been a remarkably consistent season for him to this point. Blackwood hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any of his starts this season for the Devils.
— Jack Hughes was one of Jersey’s hottest players prior to the COVID-19 break but didn’t have it upon his return with zero shots on net and three giveaways for the Devils while New Jersey posted five goals against the Blueshirts.
-The Devils are 25th in the NHL on the power play while scoring on just 14.3 percent of their man advantages and once again are going up against one of the NHL’s best penalty kills in the Boston Bruins.
– The Devils are dead last in the NHL while killing just 67.7 percent of the power plays that they’re facing and could be at a real special teams’ disadvantage against a Bruins PP looking to snap out of a funk.
–New Jersey center Travis Zajac, fresh off the NHL COVID-19 list, is two games shy of becoming the fourth player to skate in 1,000 games with the Devils, joining goaltender Martin Brodeur, Ken Daneyko and Patrik Elias. He’s expected to potentially return this weekend.
–The Devils made several moves ahead of Thursday’s game: Recalled Mikhail Maltsev and Nick Merkley from taxi to New Jersey and added Jesper Boqvist and Ben Street from the AHL to the taxi squad. Sami Vatanen and Dmitry Kulikov both practiced with the Devils on Thursday morning and are expected to play against the Boston Bruins tonight.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – David Pastrnak
Trent Frederic – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Anders Bjork – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Jeremy Lauzon – Charlie McAvoy
John Moore – Brandon Carlo
Connor Clifton – Kevan Miller
Greg McKegg, Anton Blidh.
New Jersey Devils Lines