BostonBruins.com - At long last, the Bruins are back on the ice for real tonight when they kick off the 2016-17 campaign against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Both teams are looking to improve on seasons in which they missed the playoffs. The Bruins finished one point out of a postseason spot, while the Blue Jackets placed last in the Metropolitan Division.
The Bruins won two of three meetings against Columbus last year.
Here's a look at what you need to know for tonight's matchup:
What to Watch For
If you are just beginning to turn your attention to the Black & Gold, make sure you have a roster handy for the season opener, as there are a few new names that you should be keeping an eye on.
Defensemen Brandon Carlo and Rob O'Gara and forwards Danton Heinen and Austin Czarnik are expected to make their NHL debuts. All four were impressive during training camp and made quite the impact on the Bruins brass.
"The youth stood out, it popped for me," CEO of Delaware North's Boston Holdings Charlie Jacobs said during Bruins Media Day earlier this week. "The kids that was a pleasant surprise. I think, among the entire management team, everybody in the group was hoping, but wasn't certain, about what was going to arrive here.
"It was a pleasant surprise to see so many good, young, talented players come in and step up."
On the other hand, several Bruins mainstays will miss the opener due to injury. Patrice Bergeron (lower-body) and Adam McQuaid (upper-body) are considered day-to-day and did not travel to Columbus.
Defenseman Kevan Miller will be sidelined for six weeks after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a fracture in his left hand.
The Blue Jackets will have their own youth to show off in the opener with highly touted defensemen Zach Werenski making his NHL debut. The 19-year-old was drafted eighth overall in 2015 and has been skating alongside another young standout in Seth Jones.
Columbus also boasts a strong top six up front. Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky, and Cam Atkinson form the Blue Jackets top trio, with Brandon Saad, Sam Gagner, and Nick Foligno rounding out the second line.
Atkinson and Saad led the Blue Jackets with 53 points apiece last season. Saad scored a team-high 31 goals.
Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start between the pipes. The 2013 Vezina Trophy winner posted a 2.75 goals against average and .908 save percentage last season.
Wait, There's More
David Backes (six assists in three preseason games) will be making his Bruins debut. He had been skating on the right wing alongside Ryan Spooner and David Krejci for much of training camp, but has slid up to the middle between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak with Bergeron out.
Also making their Bruins debuts tonight will be Dominic Moore and Riley Nash. The veteran forwards skated on the fourth line with Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari during practice Wednesday. Schaller could also be making his Bruins debut.
Ryan Spooner - David Krejci - Danton Heinen
Brad Marchand - David Backes - David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey - Austin Czarnik - Jimmy Hayes
Dominic Moore - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari/Tim Schaller
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug - Rob O'Gara
John-Michael Liles - Colin Miller