Cross was recalled from the Providence Bruins on Tuesday, in light of blueliner Joe Morrow battling the flu. Morrow was place on Injured Reserve Tuesday and did not travel with the team.
Boston was left with two left shot defensemen in Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, prompting Cross’ first NHL recall. The 26-year-old left shot has suited up in 155 AHL games with Providence since making his pro debut in 2012 following his senior season at Boston College.
During Wednesday morning’s pregame skate at the Pepsi Center in Denver, right shots Colin Miller and Zach Trotman rotated sides, both getting reps on their off sides, but it appears that Cross will get the nod with Trotman sitting out.
“There’s a good chance, yeah,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said, when asked if Cross would be making his debut. “I think right now, I told him to be ready for tonight. Unless something happens where I change my mind, there’s probably a good chance you’ll see him tonight.”
“He’s a pretty stable defenseman that battles hard, competes hard. Smart,” Julien said of the defenseman’s attributes. “I think he moves the puck well, he sees the ice well, he’s got a great hockey sense, so he had a good camp. And right now, being down a defenseman, we thought he warranted a call.”
Getting the call was an experience in itself for Cross.
The defenseman was on the ice in Providence for practice Tuesday when he had to rush off, quickly shower, pack and drive to catch the team plane.
“I don’t even know what I packed,” Cross said with a laugh, when speaking with reporters following Wednesday’s morning skate. “ And of course there was traffic on the way out, but it was good, I was excited, I was smiling the whole time.”
That adrenaline will continue, if he gets the debut he’s always dreamed about.
“You always keep working to try and get to the next level and in this case, it’s been to move from the AHL to the NHL and get an opportunity to play here and play for this team and help the team win,” said Cross. “So it all just kind of — I think the biggest emotion is just excitement.”
“You always keep working to try and get to the next level and in this case, it’s been to move from the AHL to the NHL and get an opportunity to play here and play for this team and help the team win, so it all just kind of — I think the biggest emotion is just excitement.
Trotman stayed on the ice for extra work following morning skate, along with Max Talbot and Tuukka Rask. Even though Talbot took rushes with Joonas Kemppainen and Zac Rinaldo, the extra time on the ice suggests Randell will get the call up front.
Like Cross, Randell is in his fourth pro season and has played 170 AHL games with Providence. The 24-year-old right winger cracked the B’s Opening Night roster for the first time this year after a strong training camp. Talbot suited up in the Bruins’ first three games, with Randell a healthy scratch.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Randell said at the end of the preseason, trying to find the words to describe sticking with the big club. “This is a very new experience. This is a great feeling. Obviously it’s still a lot of pressure. I’ve just got to keep battling and keep doing what I’m doing.”
Randell was one of the players that Cross was particularly excited to see when he got the call, given the time they have spent together with the P-Bruins, along with former Boston College teammate Jimmy Hayes.
“When I walked on the plane, [it was nice] to see Jimmy and a bunch of guys I played with in Providence the last couple of years and then a lot of familiar faces from training camp — and the guys are all welcoming,” said Cross. “But definitely Jimmy and Randy and Trots, for sure.”
“It’s an awesome feeling for him,” said Hayes. “I remember the first day that I got the call and then for him to have that experience, it’s a pretty special moment for me too to be here with him, to share it with him — he’s worked hard his whole career and now he’s here and fulfilling his dream.”
There was never a time when Cross thought he wouldn’t get here.
“No, that thought never crossed my mind,” he said.
Cross and Randell were both re-signed by the Bruins on June 18, to one-year, two-way deals (annual cap hit of $600,000). Cross has been part of the organization since being drafted in 2007 (drafted 35th overall); Randell since 2009 (176th overall). With their career trajectories and lengthy time together, it’s only fitting that they would make their debuts on the same night.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of guys that have spent more time in the AHL than just a couple of weeks or a couple of months, and come up and had great success,” said Julien. “[Cross] is one of those guys, with the kind of injuries he’s had growing up with those knee issues, he’s had to kind of re-establish the type of game that he wants to play.”
“And it’s unfortunate, because he had such a bright future, in the direction it was going, until that setback, but he’s kind of caught up a little bit here and he’s given himself a chance again to play in the NHL and we’ll see how he fares tonight.”
Gustavsson Gets First Start
Jonas Gustavsson was the first goaltender off the ice at pregame skate, indicating he’s expected to get his first start as a Bruin against the Avalanche.
“I think he deserves a start at some point,” said Julien. “Our initial thought process, no matter what the outcomes [of the first games] were going to be, was that he was probably going to play here, so we’re sticking with that.”
Gustavsson knew a few days ago that he would be getting the nod in Colorado.
“Obviously you want to get out and play,” he said. “But you’ve just got to make sure you’re ready when it’s your time. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a few weeks or a few days — you’ve got to find a way to get ready mentally and physically, and I feel like I’ve done that.”
The netminder happens to be getting his first start when the team desperately needs a win, given their 0-3 start.
“You can only do one game at a time — you’ve got to have the same mentality to every game and do whatever you can to win,” he said. “Not put too much pressure on you, but still make sure you’re ready for the assignment and do whatever you can.”
Time for a Win
The Bruins are looking to shore up their defensive game on Wednesday night — or at least take a step in the right direction, after allowing 16 goals against through their first three games.
“I hope our team shows some progress in those areas where we’ve been struggling,” said Julien. “You’re not going to win too many hockey games in this League giving up the number of goals we’ve been giving up since the start of the season, so I think we’re all aware of that — we just have to clean up that part of our game and if we do, I think our chances of success are that much greater.”
The Avalanche are 1-1 entering the game, and will close out a three-game season opening home stand with Boston before hitting the road to Southern California. They would much rather head out with a 2-1 record than the alternative.
“We know the Bruins are a hard-working, big team that competes hard, and we need to make sure our compete level is there,” said Jarome Iginla, excited to face his former team. “And not so much about what team we’re playing but just keep getting in that habit of doing what we do and making sure we’re ready to compete.”
Former Bruin Carl Soderberg was also looking forward to the matchup.
“It’s going to be fun to play against them,” he said. “I still have a couple offriends there, but on the ice, it’s going to be a battle. It’s a fun game, for sure.”
Marchand on Track
Brad Marchand joined the team for pregame skate on Wednesday, though he is not yet ready for a return to game action following his concussion sustained on Saturday against Montreal.
Marchand was back at practice on Tuesday, taking no contact, before traveling with the team to Denver.
“Doing well,” Julien said of Marchand. “He’s, again, practiced with our team, so we hope that continues. Nothing changes, guys. Every day, I’m going to tell you it’s the protocol and he’s still going through that.”
Projected Lineup vs. Avalanche 10/14
Loui Eriksson—Patrice Bergeron—Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey—David Krejci—David Pastrnak
Chris Kelly—Ryan Spooner—Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo—Joonas Kemppainen—Tyler Randell
Zdeno Chara—Kevan Miller
Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid
Tommy Cross—Colin Miller
Starter: Jonas Gustavsson // Backup: Tuukka Rask
Scratches: Max Talbot, Zach Trotman