BOSTON - As Matt Beleskey skated to the penalty box, he flipped his hair back into place and took a glance up at the raucous TD Garden crowd. With the cheers continuing to build, he gestured to the Black & Gold faithful to turn up the volume just a little bit more.
The Bruins had just grabbed a 2-1 lead over the Minnesota Wild, and just eight seconds after Frank Vatrano's tally, Beleskey dropped the gloves with Luke Kunin in front of the Minnesota bench.
It was a quick bout, but one that provided an extra jolt of energy to the Boston bench - and the fans in attendance. For Beleskey, it was mission accomplished.
"You've got to have some fun," said Beleskey, who played just over 11 minutes in the 5-3 win against Minnesota. "It's fun here in the Garden. They get loud, so you know, you get into the game, and if I can get people out of their seats that's good."
Indeed it is. And it's exactly the kind of engagement the Bruins are looking for from the 29-year-old winger. Beleskey has yet to find the scoresheet through nine games this season, but his presence over the last three games has certainly been felt.
After sitting out the previous three games as a health scratch, Beleskey returned to the lineup with David Backes sidelined for colon surgery and has meshed well on the left wing alongside Austin Czarnik and Riley Nash.
"I'm definitely feeling better out there, skating better. It's confidence and it's building, so that's what I'm trying to do," said Beleskey, who has landed three shots on net in each of the last two games. "Just keep working, stick to the process and hopefully start getting a couple bounces.
"But I think when I'm playing defensively sound it's easier for [Bruce Cassidy] to keep me on the ice."
Cassidy, who was pleased with Beleskey's positive approach to his time out of the lineup, has noticed the uptick in the veteran's play since his return.
"When he was sitting out he wasn't pouting, which is the sign of a good pro. He understood that he'd get his chance again," said Cassidy. "If the going get's tough, he's going to step up and answer the bell. [Fighting is] another club in his bag that he'll need to bring for us. All good things.
"I'd love to see him get rewarded offensively. He's guy that's scored in the past. I'm sure it would feel very good for him. Hopefully that's coming, he's gotten a few more looks around the net and that's usually how it starts."
Miller Dons the 'A'
With Backes, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand out of the lineup, the Bruins were in need of a second alternate captain against the Wild. The choice was not a difficult one for Cassidy as he tabbed blue liner Kevan Miller with the 'A' on his sweater.
"Kevan's always been that guy, sticking up for his teammates, practices hard every day, fitness is through the roof. All of the things that you want young kids coming in to notice out of a player," said Cassidy. "He's not flashy in terms of leading with numbers. He's a good soldier for us every night…Kevan is well deserving of a letter."
Miller was grateful for the recognition, while also taking a predictably team-first approach when addressing the honor.
"It was a huge, huge honor for me," said Miller. "But I think there's a lot of guys in here without letters that are just as big of leaders. We can pride ourselves on that as a team that, whether you wear the letter or not, you have a responsibility to lead as a veteran guy."
Marchand Won't Travel
Cassidy said following Monday night's game that Brad Marchand, who missed the win over the Wild with an upper-body injury, would not travel with the team on Tuesday.
David Krejci skated for a portion of Boston's optional practice on Tuesday morning, doing some light skating, shooting, and stickhandling. It was his first time on the ice since suffering an upper-body injury against Vancouver on Oct. 19.
The pivot will not play in any of the remaining three games scheduled for this week.
"He's back skating. He's out this week," said Cassidy. "This is part of the progression of him getting back in the lineup, getting out there and getting his reps."
Ryan Spooner (torn adductor) also took part in the session, mostly working with skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold.
Khudobin, Acciari Nearing Returns
Anton Khudobin (lower body) and Noel Acciari (broken finger) skated on Tuesday and were expected to travel with the team. Khudobin will back-up Tuukka Rask against the Rangers on Wednesday night barring any physical issues following practice.
Acciari, who has been out since Opening Night, will not play against the Rangers, but Cassidy said "there's a chance" he could return against Toronto on Friday.
"He'll be out [Wednesday], but he is a possibility [for later in the week] or he wouldn't be traveling," said Cassidy. "Let's check in again on Thursday, but there's a chance."
The Bruins are set for their first meeting of the season with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garen on Wednesday night (8 p.m. EST on NBCSN).
The Rangers (7-7-2, 16 points) are heating up as they have won four straight and six of the last eight after starting the season 1-5-2. New York has tallied at least five goals in three of the four victories, with ten different players having recorded a goal. The Blueshirts are coming off a 5-3 victory over Columbus on Monday night and sits one point ahead of the Bruins for an Eastern Conference Wild Card spot.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 25-12-2 with a 1.93 goals against average, .936 save percentage, and six shutouts in 39 career games against the Bruins.