BOSTON - The method behind Don Sweeney's trade deadline moves was to deepen his roster. The additions of Rick Nash, Nick Holden, Brian Gionta, and Tommy Wingels brought veteran experience and, in spots, insurance as the Bruins charge towards the postseason.
While Nash was acquired to be a prominent offensive force alongside David Krejci, the roles of Holden, Gionta, and Wingels were not quite as defined. But an injury to Patrice Bergeron and some growing pains for Boston's young players have opened up opportunities.
After the TD Garden debuts of Nash and Wingels on Tuesday, Holden and Gionta will both be playing their first games as Bruins on Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We'll probably do that with a number of guys if we're afforded that luxury, be able to mix and match," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "That's the nice thing about having depth, guys can go in and help the team win."
Video: Gionta debuts, Holden in too
Gionta will enter the lineup for Danton Heinen. Heinen's offensive game has dipped a bit of late with just one assist over his last nine games, leading to a decline in his ice time. The rookie winger played just 11:25 in Tuesday's overtime win over Carolina.
"Just stay positive. I know my game is not where it needs to be right now," said Heinen. "Keep working on it and I'm confident that I can bust out of it. It's always a bad thing watching it from the outside…get a little hungry to get back in.
"You've got to be ready every night and it's one game right now. Hopefully I'll get back in soon. Heck of a group in here that will get the job done."
As it did for Jake DeBrusk in the fall, Cassidy hopes that some time in the press box will help Heinen regain the form that entered him into the Calder Trophy discussion earlier this season.
"It's only one game but I think it will help Danton, I really do," said Cassidy, who believes Heinen's defensive game has remained strong. "I know it worked very well for Jake at a different time in the season. But hopefully just takes a mental breather and goes up and watches the game through the left winger's lens up there and what's available to him.
"When het gets in there next and I certainly don't want to speculate how long it will be, I don't anticipate that it will be long."
Gionta, meanwhile, will play his first National Hockey League game since April 9 of last season with Buffalo. The 39-year-old, who was inked to a one-year contract on Sunday after captaining Team USA at the Winter Olympics, will play the right wing alongside Wingels and David Backes.
"Excited for tonight," said the former Boston College standout. "Go out there and do whatever to help the team. They have a great team and I'm here to support it in any way I can. To be a part of this group is pretty cool and pretty special to have that opportunity. Just come in and help whatever way I can."
On the back end, Holden will slide in for Matt Grzelcyk, who Cassidy said is dealing with some bumps and bruises. Holden, acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 20, will play the left side on a pairing with Brandon Carlo.
"I think it's more about trying to get Holden in as much as anything," said Cassidy. "Grizz, like a lot of our guys, they're all nursing these little nagging injuries. Good timing - get Nick in and give [Grizz] an extra day to rest and see where we're at on Saturday."
Carlo will be playing in his second straight game after his first career healthy scratch in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon.
"He's a good player for us," said Cassidy. "He goes out for some goals against - I'm not gonna put them all on him. We had a chat with him up in Buffalo about that and about taking some value in going upstairs and appreciating that there's eight good defensemen here. You've got to do your part, basically without putting too much pressure on him, which is always a balance with the younger guys.
"We expect that he'll continue to get better and be a better defensive defenseman for us, move pucks, and hopefully get a little bit more confidence in the offensive game. He jumped up the other night and had a great chance; [Riley] Nash fed him shorthanded. We'd like to see more of that."
The second-year blue liner said he is trying to remain calm during each situation that may pop up during the course of an NHL game and realize that sometimes the bounces might not go his way.
"I don't feel like I'm in a bad position at all," said Carlo. "I feel like I'm keeping everything positive throughout the healthy scratch experience. I feel like that was good to kind of reset...it's good for me to come back in and have that experience to kind of reboot my work ethic and things like that. I felt like I was getting a little soft in areas, but that's a quick fix and I'm gonna got out the re and work as hard as I can every night."