BOSTON - Patrice Bergeron is expected to make his season debut on Thursday night at TD Garden.
"It doesn't matter what night it is; I think anytime Patrice comes back into our lineup, it's a big lift," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "He's regarded as one of the best players in the league."
"So, when you go three games without him and you see him coming back, it's a lift to everybody: players, teammates, organization, coaching staff, and hopefully the fans as well."
The alternate captain missed the Bruins' first three games recovering from a lower-body injury. He'll be reunited with long-time linemate Brad Marchand.
"He's one of the best players in the league," Marchand said following the team's pregame skate at Warrior Ice Arena. "He's obviously going to help our team a lot and give us a lot of depth, so it's great to have him back."
Bergeron had plenty of praise for Marchand's play while he was out, and for his right winger David Pastrnak's play as well.
"He's been playing amazing hockey right now," Bergeron said of Pastrnak, who is tied for the NHL lead with four goals through three games. "He seems to really be creating a lot of chances, but also playing some smart hockey, and Brad and David were really, really good during that road trip."
"So I'm definitely happy to be back with those two guys and have the chance to maybe create some good chemistry."
Having Bergeron back also causes a ripple effect throughout the lineup.
"He's a huge hole to fill, you can't replace a guy like that, and he just adds a lot of depth to the team," said Marchand. "When you're able to balance out your lines and put Backs with Krech and have Bergy with our line, it just adds a lot to our team."
"And it just fills that gap that we need on the penalty kill, even strength, last minute of games, he's a huge faceoff guy, so again, you can't replace a guy like that, and it definitely adds to our group."
Backes Joins Krejci and Heinen
With Bergeron returning, look for David Backes to be back on David Krejci's right wing, with rookie Danton Heinen getting a shot on the left wing with the veterans.
Backes has been versatile since Day One, shifting from center to wing to wherever. For him, the adjustment isn't too difficult.
"I won't be involved in the immediate faceoff, but helping [Krejci] win 50/50 draws, win the puck back, and just talk all over the ice like we have been," said Backes.
"With Heinen on the wing, he's got two veteran guys with him - we need to make him feel comfortable to be a very productive member and with his ability, his second-effort he was showing in preseason, we'll get back to how we were cookin' a little bit before I was forced to play center," Backes smiled.
"And now I'm back to the wing - we'll see what it brings. I'll have a little bit more emphasis on the forecheck, maybe plant my frame in front of the goalie and not let him see pucks and let the D just swing away and let 'em rip."
With Heinen sticking on that line for the morning line rushes, it appeared that Ryan Spooner would be the healthy scratch up front for Thursday night's action.
"I've got about eight hours to decide," Julien, when asked if Spooner was playing.
Morrow to Make Season Debut
On the back end, Joe Morrow is expected to play his first game of the season after sitting out the first three as a healthy scratch.
"I'm pretty excited, especially as the home opener to be my first game," said Morrow. "And there's not much else to say; I've just got to get out there and do my job."
Morrow's time out of the lineup during the road trip can be attributed to the Bruins' depth on the left side, with Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and John-Michael Liles all left shots in the lineup. For Thursday night, Krug will shift to his off side alongside Morrow.
It hasn't been easy for Morrow to watch from above.
"It just makes you more eager," he said. "That's a decision that they made, so there wasn't anything I could do about it - it kind of just is what it is and now I can be twice as excited to get in for our home opener in front of our fans too, so I'll just use that as fuel for the fire."
With Bergeron returning, a corresponding roster move saw Austin Czarnik assigned to the Providence Bruins. The forward made his NHL debut in Columbus and also suited up in Toronto.
"He had a tremendous camp and we just wanted him to go down there and play," said Julien.
"I was extremely impressed with his training camp. He's a smart player. When we get to this type of situation, I think he's playing to find his game again and we're going to allow him to do that. Certainly, with the way he's played, we're going to allow him to do that. Certainly, with the way he's played, there's a good chance you're going to see him here again."
Schaller Looks to Make Garden Debut
Tim Schaller made his Bruins debut in Winnipeg on Monday, recording an important assist on Dominic Moore's tying goal. He formed a fourth line with Moore and fellow Providence College teammate Noel Accari that provided energy and consistency throughout the night.
Originally recalled as the extra forward when Bergeron didn't travel, it appears that Schaller played his way back into the lineup for Thursday's home opene.r
"He's just a smart player that plays hard, I think, in all aspects," said Julien. "He's a centerman that can play wing, he's got good size, I think his hockey sense is great. Last time we put him in there, I thought he did a good job with that line which turned out to be one of our better lines against Winnipeg."
"What's good is I've played at the Garden before - not with the B's, but against them, so most of the nerves hopefully are out of the way," said Schaller. "But I'll be feeding off the adrenaline tonight for sure."
Pregame Skate Lines and Defense Pairings 10/20
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen-David Krejci-David Backes
Matt Beleskey-Riley Nash-Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller-Dominic Moore-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Joe Morrow-Torey Krug
John-Michael Liles-Colin Miller
Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Anton Khudobin
Expected Scratches: Rob O'Gara, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid *
*McQuaid remains on Injured Reserve (upper body)