NEW YORK - A primetime matchup against an Original Six rival on national television has the entire Bruins locker room ready and raring to lace up their skates for tonight's game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
But one player in particular has had this game circled on his calendar since the start of the season - B's defenseman and Long Beach, NY native Charlie McAvoy.
"It's going to be really special," McAvoy told reporters following the team's morning skate. "It's a game that I've been looking forward to… Any time you get to come home and play at a building like this, where you grew up going to games, it really means a lot. It's special, so I'm excited for it."
The 19-year-old defenseman will have "a good amount" of friends and family in the building tonight to watch him play alongside 40-year-old captain Zdeno Chara. But both McAvoy and Head Coach Bruce Cassidy are hopeful that the added pressure of playing in front of a hometown crowd won't distract him from his game.
"He's from the area, it's a rivalry game, Madison Square Garden - I imagine he is jacked to played, get out there, as long as he doesn't get too much ahead of him in that regard," Cassidy said. "I don't think anything really does with Charlie. If it does, he's able to reel it in quickly. Like you, I'm looking forward to seeing what he's got today."
"I think staying on that even keel is something that I've really tried to practice since as long as I can remember," McAvoy said. "You don't get too high or too low. So tonight I'll just approach it like any other game, and I guess the postgame will be the only thing that's different, being able to see a lot of good family and friends."
As for whether his loved ones will be wearing Blue and Red or Black and Gold, McAvoy assured reporters that his supporters in the crowd were willing to change their allegiances - at least for one night.
"Everybody is cheering for me. A lot of Ranger fans turned Bruins fans tonight, which I appreciate. I'm excited."
Video: The Bruins speak before their game against NYR
Bjork, DeBrusk Eager For Rivalry Game
McAvoy isn't the only one excited for tonight's Original Six matchup. Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk are among several Bruins set to play their first game against New York at Madison Square Garden.
"Should be an exciting game," Bjork said. "It should be an exciting atmosphere as well. I'm really excited to play here - I think we all are - and hopefully we'll have a good one."
"We know they're playing good hockey, and we know we've got to be ready," DeBrusk said. "It's going to be a battle. It's going to be a tight game and I'm looking forward to it."
Cassidy told reporters that he hopes his young lineup will be able to handle the adversity of playing in front of loud, hostile crowd.
"I think young guys tend to play better at home," Cassidy said. "They feed off a little more of that. You see a lot of better records in junior and in college because of that. As they get more mature, they realize, hey, I have to do it 82 times a year - whether we are playing at home or on Mars. We are trying to send that message that you need the same game, the same preparation."
Beating the King
Chief among the Blue Shirts looking to spoil the MSG debuts of McAvoy, Bjork and DeBrusk is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner has seen a dip in his numbers so far this season (3.07 GAA, .900 Save %), but DeBrusk and the Bruins know that to have success tonight, they'll have to create some traffic in front of him.
"Get in his eyes, make sure he doesn't see the puck - I think that's the biggest thing," DeBrusk explained. "He's the King, and he's going to stop it if he sees it unless it's a perfect shot. The main focus is to get to the net, get some rebounds and make sure he doesn't see the puck."
Running It Back
Cassidy confirmed that tonight's lineup will be the same as in Monday's 5-3 win against Minnesota:
Puck drop is set for 8:10 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network and 98.5 The Sports Hub.