TORONTO - The Bruins had an off day Thursday after arriving in Toronto at 3 a.m. ET ahead of their Friday night showdown with the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy spoke to reporters at the team hotel, and he gave updates on Brad Marchand, Noel Acciari, the weekend goaltending plan and more.
Marchand/Acciari Game-Time Decisions
Cassidy said that both Brad Marchand and Noel Acciari will be game-time decisions for Friday's game in Toronto.
"I'm not going to rule [Marchand] in or out right now, because like I said he's going through what he needs to do. There is a chance [he plays tomorrow]."
"Noel will be a game-time decision. And he gives us a physicality, straight-line, can change the momentum of the game on the forecheck with some big hits. Be nice to have that element back in the game. I think he was rounding into his offensive game, that's going to be a little more difficult I think after missing time."
The physicality that Acciari provides is certainly something that doesn't go unnoticed by opposing teams either, with one Boston reporter informing Cassidy that at least three Rangers brought up the absence of Acciari prior to Wednesday's game.
"Well they know when he's on the ice. A guy that hits and hits clean, people are aware of it. Guys that hit dirty, people are aware of it too, but they are talking about it probably in a different [way]. There's respect for Noel's game. I believe he's earned that. I'm not privy to the conversations you're talking about, but I assume they are talking about a good hard-nosed clean hockey player that brings that element every night and they need to be aware of it when they are on the ice."
Video: Bruce Cassidy speaks to media on an off day in TOR
Cassidy said that the team is leaning towards starting Anton Khudobin in net Friday night, with Tuukka Rask returning in between the pipes Saturday in Boston.
"We're leaning towards Anton [Khudobin] tomorrow to give Tuukka [Rask] the extra day, but we'll make that decision tomorrow morning. But it will be a split. Anton is ready to go; he backed up last night. He'll have another morning skate to make sure he's up to snuff and then we'll decide."
During his wide-ranging media availability, Cassidy touched on the recent growth of U.S. college hockey. Charlie McAvoy (Boston University), Anders Bjork (Notre Dame), Danton Heinen (Denver University), Frank Vatrano (UMass), Noel Acciari (Providence College) and Sean Kuraly (Miami) are among the Bruins' young players who chose the college route.
"I think in general, there's more American kids playing the game, so I think that has a lot to do with it. They are going to naturally gravitate towards going towards college as opposed to going the junior route. I think Canadian kids are now are going the college route more and more because of the level of play, and they want to get drafted. They want to be NHL players. What's the quickest route? Well who is getting drafted from which leagues? Now there is a better balance in that. And it's actually probably - I don't have the numbers in front of me - tilting probably closer to college."
Cassidy himself said he thought about going to Colgate University as a 17-year-old, but decided to go another route - a decision he sometimes regrets.
"I was a good student, I was ready to go. I turned 17, I went to actually visit Colgate, so it crossed my mind. I was drafted to my hometown team fairly high, so I went that route. It worked out. We won a Memorial Cup. I have regrets sometimes that I didn't get my education. You can still do it in the summers, peck away at it, but it's not quite the same."
Hockey Hall Of Fame
Cassidy said he visited the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto last year and has plans to visit again on the team's off day.
"I went last year when I was year, and I went probably 15 years a go. For me, I'm sure you guys know, I'm a hockey nut. I'm a junkie, so I love that stuff. I think it's terrific, nice to be around it."
His favorite part of the museum was seeing a familiar mask while waiting in line.
"When I walked in I was waiting in line, there was a mask of [Bruins goaltending coach] Bob Essensa right there and I couldn't believe it. There it was, right there. And I was like, wow, Bob, I have to tell him that. And then the next one below was Darren Pang, who is one of my best friends in hockey. So I was like, wow, I didn't know I was around such royalty. It was awesome."
The Bruins will have a morning skate at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday at Air Canada Centre. Follow along on all the Bruins social channels for complete coverage.