BOSTON - The Bruins will hit the ice on Saturday at TD Garden for their final tune-up of the preseason before their season officially opens on Oct. 13 in Columbus.
Game time on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers is set for 5:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
Tuukka Rask is scheduled to start between the pipes, with Head Coach Claude Julien rolling out a roster that will be as close to a full lineup as fans have seen during the preseason.
"Monday is the last day here to put guys on waivers if I'm correct - so we've got to be really, really close to our team and I want to be close to our team," Julien said following the team's practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Friday afternoon. "So, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we really focus on that group and getting ready for our opener in Columbus on Thursday, so I'm looking forward to it."
"Training camps are fun, but they're also hard when you're looking to get your group together and in sync."
Saturday night's roster will feature Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner, David Krejci, David Backes, Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Dominic Moore and Riley Nash up front, along with two players who have yet to make their NHL debuts: Austin Czarnik and Danton Heinen.
Czarnik was centering Beleskey and Hayes during Friday's practice.
"He's got unbelievable hockey sense. He's playing really, really well," said Julien. "He's still here because certainly deserves to still be here."
"At the end of this week, and start of next week, we're going to have some tough decisions to make, but we're here to give opportunities to people that can help our hockey club, and we're going to continue to think that way."
Beleskey has often skated with Spooner as his centerman, and Czarnik brings a similar shifty, speedy and creative tool kit. With Czarnik being a right shot, the set up is actually easier for the left-shot Beleskey.
"He makes great plays with the puck, so if we can create turnovers, get the puck to him, get open, it's going to help us for sure," said Beleskey. "Me and Jim obviously off-ice have a good connection; we've just got to get it dialed in here on the ice."
Czarnik's camp performance has allowed Julien and the Bruins' staff to experiment with Spooner on Krejci's left wing, with Backes on the right. The line creates a unique dynamic with three centers.
"I think I need to be more of a shooter there," said Spooner. "If you play in the middle of the ice, usually you have to be more of a passer, so for me, its a little bit of a change, but I think if I get to the front of the net and just try to shoot the puck more, then I should be fine."
On the back end, rookies Brandon Carlo and Rob O'Gara will be in the lineup, along with Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller and Christian Ehrhoff, who remains with the team on a Professional Tryout Agreement.
Miller was back skating with the team in practice on Friday after missing the previous two days with a day-to-day injury, while Adam McQuaid has now been labeled day-to-day by Julien.
After playing the past two games, Ehrhoff will get one more opportunity on Saturday to prove he's a fit for Boston.
"I know there's only one game left and there's no doubt we're getting closer to our team, but that doesn't stop us from evaluating players we want to evaluate," said Julien.
Carlo and O'Gara have adapted quickly to the pro game, and it's been exciting to see the young defensemen take advantage of their opportunities to play.
"It's exciting, I feel good out there," said O'Gara. "It's definitely a confidence booster, especially going through the season, wherever I start, knowing that I can play at this level, playing my game, being comfortable, and that's when I play my best, so just building off of that into the season."
While the young blueliners might not have the experience, they're making it hard on Julien and management.
"I don't think there's any concerns about whether we're going to send [Carlo] down because he's 19 - we'll make those decisions when the time comes, but he's shown us that he's certainly holding his own here in this league so far," Julien said.
With Carlo, O'Gara and Ehrhoff in the lineup, defensemen John-Michael Liles and Colin Miller will get the night off on Saturday, along with Joe Morrow.
The game will offer one more chance for the players to get game ready for the 2016-17 season, and a final look for the coaches and management to narrow down the roster for opening night.
"It's exciting to see the guys are pushing for jobs and what they're bringing," said Julien.
"We have to get better and those [young] guys right now are giving me reason to think that we're going to get better. So all this competition has made our group a little bit better than I think we were at this stage last year. Hopefully, that trend that I think is happening is going to come true."
Below are players listed on Saturday night's game roster, with the lines and defense pairings that were grouped together for Friday's practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Ryan Spooner - David Krejci - David Backes
Matt Beleskey - Austin Czarnik - Jimmy Hayes
Danton Heinen - Dominic Moore - Riley Nash
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug - Rob O'Gara
Christian Ehrhoff - Kevan Miller
Expected Starter for Saturday night: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Malcolm Subban