The Boston Bruins (11-8-0, 22 pts) open the month of December with a road tilt against a solid Nashville Predators (12-9-1, 25 pts) squad that’s 7-4-0 this season at Bridgestone Arena (8 pm, NESN, ESPN+).
It’s going to be a rough ride for the Black and Gold, however. Their best player in Brad Marchand will be serving the second game of a three-game suspension for slew-footing Vancouver defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Bruins are fighting the distraction of a player in Jake DeBrusk that doesn’t want to be on the team anymore and they’re getting just “okay” goaltending from the duo of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman.
The Boston Bruins will also be without head coach Bruce Cassidy, who was placed in COVID-19 protocol earlier this week. Assistant coach Joe Sacco took over the reins behind the bench for Tuesday night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins skills coach Kim Brandvold was helping out on the bench with both Cassidy and Chris Kelly knocked out of commission due to COVID.
Rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman is expected to get the start between the pipes for the Black and Gold (6-4-0, 2.42 goals against average and .908 save percentage) in Music City.
Boston Bruins Notes
–Erik Haula returned to the Boston Bruins lineup and was good in Tuesday night’s loss to the Red Wings after being scratched over the weekend following just one goal in his first 17 games. Interestingly, Haula will be moved to the wing for Thursday night’s game against Nashville after struggling at times defensively playing the center position.
“I feel like I’ve been in the league long enough, feel like I’ve seen all the situations there are,” said Haula, who signed a two-year, $4.75 million contract with the Bruins this summer. “Yes, I think it was warranted in a sense, where I wasn’t where I needed to be. I wasn’t playing the way the team needs me to play. So, in a sense, I took it as let’s reset and start over and find my game again and make it looks like it’s supposed to.
“I kind of had a stretch there where I wasn’t happy with my game myself. I didn’t really recognize the player that was out there. Probably was good to sit a game, reset a little bit and now work to get back to my game which was more of [Tuesday night], skating, more confident on the puck, harder. That was my emphasis and I thought it was a good step towards the right direction.”
– Patrice Bergeron has been on fire lately with two goals and three assists in his last four games. He now has eight goals and ten assists in 19 games this season.
Nashville Predators Notes
-The top line of Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene has been very effective all season for the Predators with Granlund leading the team in assists (20) and points (25), and Duchene leading the team with a solid 13 goals this season.
Forsberg scored a whopping four goals in Nashville’s 6-0 blowout of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
“If you watch clips of them last year to this year, there’s no comparison. There’s much more competitiveness and playing responsibly,” said Nashville head coach John Hynes. “There’s second and third effort. They’re playing a lot faster and they’re checking when they don’t have the puck. The way they’re playing the game is allowing them to be productive. There’s a lot of substance to their game.”
– Because of the COVID realignment last season, Thursday marks the return of Bruins forward Craig Smith to Nashville for the first time since signing with the Boston Bruins in free agency prior to last season.
–Juuse Saros is expected to get the start for the Predators. Saros is 10-7-1 with a 2.35 goals against average and .922 save percentage this season.
Boston Bruins Lines
Taylor Hall-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Erik Haula-Charlie Coyle-Craig Smith
Nick Foligno-Trent Frederic-Karson Kuhlman
Jake DeBrusk-Tomas Nosek-Curtis Lazar
Derek Forbort – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo
Mike Reilly – Jakub Zboril
Nashville Predators Lines
Filip Forsberg–Mikael Granlund–Matt Duchene
Eeli Tolvanen–Ryan Johansen–Luke Kunin
Yakov Trenin–Colton Sissons–Tanner Jeannot
Nick Cousins–Thomas Novak–Philip Tomasino
Roman Josi–Dante Fabbro
Mattias Ekholm–Alexandre Carrier
Mark Borowiecki–Matt Benning