Bruins lineup starting to take shape
In Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, the Bruins once again split into two groups with the first group looking more like what we should expect to see on Thursday when the Bruins begin the season in New Jersey to take on the Devils.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jack Studnicka
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie-Charlie Coyle-Craig Smith
Anders Bjork/Trent Federic-Sean Kuraly- Chris Wagner
Jeremy Lauzon-Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk-Brandon Carlo
Jakub Zboril-Kevan Miller
John Moore-Connor Clifton
“We did want to get down to more of what our group would look like. Work with four lines, our eight D and we sprinkled some extra forwards in because that’s typically what our roster looks like,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
While Cassidy feels this very well could be his opening night lineup, he’s not ruling out that Urho Vaakanainen could somehow fit into the equation.
“But I think Vaakanainen should be in that conversation with the way he’s played, but I didn’t want to practice with nine D so he was the odd man out,” said Cassidy. “The other guys have a little bit more sonority.”
The Bruins will have two more practices before they need to finalize their opening night roster on Tuesday. Cassidy hopes one last scrimmage on Monday will help them answer all the remaining questions they may have.
“We’re going to meet here and obviously discuss some things and obviously it’s getting close to the roster finality,” said Cassidy. “We’re thinking of scrimmaging [Monday], we’ll get a last look at some of those guys that weren’t in that first group.”
One of the guys that was in the first group failed to finish the session as Marchand continues to work his way back from offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia. Cassidy and the Bruins still expect Marchand to be ready for Thursday night, but for purposes of Monday’s scrimmage, it all depends on how Marchand feels Monday morning.
“He went and got treatment, I saw him after. We are planning on scrimmaging tomorrow, he will be a morning-time decision on how he feels,” said Cassidy. “Obviously not serious, but if he misses a day when he feels he should be out there then obviously it’s something to keep an eye on.”
With some tough luck on his side, Kevan Miller has not appeared in an NHL game since Apr. 4, 2019. All indications are that Miller will be in the Bruins lineup on Thursday and the 33-year old is excited to get things going.
"Excited to be back and be around the guys again, to be playing and competing again. It's been a long road," said Miller.
"Feeling 100 percent. Obviously, there's a little bit of adjustment getting back into drills and playing scrimmages. It's been a good couple days. So far, so good. Really looking forward to Thursday."
With Zdeno Chara in Washington and Torey Krug in St. Louis, Miller is the longest tenured defenseman on the Bruins roster. Taking on a bit of a different role than the one he had when he last appeared in a game with the Bruins, Miller will be tasked with guiding along rookie Jakub Zboril on the third pairing.
"Jake's a great player. He sees the ice really well. He skates really well and he makes good plays. I think this is the second or third camp in a row that I've been partnered up with him to start. I think he's made leaps and bounds since the first time he got here to where he is now. He's competing, he's ready to go for practice,” said Miller.
"He's a guy that makes sure he is detail oriented. I think that's something that when he first got here was a little bit different. He's learned and done a great job growing with the game. I've really enjoyed playing with him."
One of the downfalls of a short camp and no exhibition games is the lack of reps for goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. While both have gotten some work in before the start of training camp on Jan. 3, it certainly would be beneficial for the pair to see some more action before things begin for real on Thursday.
“I think Tuukka’s been here coming in early in early December. I seen it with my own eyes, he’s been on the ice here. I assume he’ll be ready to go. Would everybody like a few exhibition games against live? Absolutely, to be better prepared. But everybody is in the same boat here around the league,” said Cassidy
“Jaro I didn’t see on the ice obviously, but he could have been back home. I mean he was, but how much I don’t know. If I had to guess, maybe he’s a little behind Tuukka. But Jaro’s a pro and I trust him, he’ll get ready, he’ll get his time in here.”
The Bruins are fortunate that out of the gate, they’re not looking at a heavy game schedule as they have five games in the season’s first 10 days.
“We’re okay the first stretch of games in terms of there’s no back-to-backs early. You’ve got a Thursday, Saturday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday I believe, they’re spread out. If Jaro didn’t feel he was where he needs to be, we wouldn’t use him as much,” said Cassidy.
Where Halak feels his game is at will determine when he makes his first start, but either way it sounds like two starts for Rask and one for Halak in the Bruins first three games.
“I would suspect Jaro will be in net by Monday in Long Island,” said Cassidy. “But if he tells me he’s ready to go and up to speed then that probably means Tuukka, Tuukka, Jaro, or Tuukka, Jaro, Tuukka.”