BostonBruins.com - The Bruins visit the Prudential Center on Thursday for the first time this season for the team's third and final matchup against the New Jersey Devils.
For defenseman Connor Clifton, who grew up 30 minutes south of the arena in Matawan, New Jersey, it's a very happy homecoming.
"It's always nice to come home," said Clifton. "No [nerves]. It's always fun to come home, play in front of family and friends, so that's nice."
Video: Clifton discusses second NHL stint
He couldn't estimate the number of family and friends that will be in attendance, but assures that it will be a lot, noting that his dad, Tim, was also at Nassau Coliseum for the Bruins' win over the Islanders on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old has played in 12 games for the Black and Gold this season, earning a plus-3 rating. Currently in the midst of his second career NHL call-up, he has already earned praise about his compete level from coach Bruce Cassidy.
"Compete and composure," said Cassidy. "Sometimes guys come up and they're a little tentative for different reasons, might be their personality, they want to defer to the more veteran guys, they want to feel their way around. He's not that guy. He's in there, banging bodies right away. He wants to make plays, so if anything, he's the guy you might have to coach down a little bit, as opposed to coach up. I've always preferred that with a kid that wants to come up as long he's not reckless, and he has not been reckless."
Clifton is trying to make the most of his time while he's up, focusing on his game while also learning from the best in the league.
"I think it's great because you have a lot of role models to model yourself after," said Clifton. "Guys here…like [Zdeno] Chara is a great example. He's been here for 22 years, I think. I mean, that's pretty unbelievable. It's nice to have guys like that and good to see what they're like."
This will also be the first time defenseman John Moore returns to the Prudential Center after signing with the Bruins in the offseason. He played the last three seasons with the Devils, recording 59 points (23g, 26a) in 217 games.
Video: Cassidy on injuries and talks Clifton's play
Patrice Bergeron had a maintenance day on Wednesday and was not on the ice with the team but "is fine," according to Cassidy. He skated during a lightly attended optional pregame skate on Thursday morning.
Torey Krug had a scheduled day off from his concussion rehab on Wednesday and was on the ice Thursday morning donning a maroon non-contact jersey.
The three injured players that remained in Boston this week, Kevan Miller (upper-body), Matt Grzelcyk (arm) and Marcus Johansson (lung) will join the team in Florida on Friday to continue skating.
"The guys are coming to skate with us," said Cassidy. "I believe all three, Miller, Grzelcyk, Johansson, and then from there I don't know who will be available. Like I said, I don't think Kevan will, but he's going to try to integrate with the team and get skating. And after that, I guess day-to-day would be the accurate way to put it once they start skating with the group."
Cassidy also mentioned that none of the three players are likely to be available before Monday's game in Tampa Bay, but they will have to wait and see until after the skate on Friday if anyone would be ready to go against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
Marchand Causing a Chuckle
Brad Marchand created an Instagram account on Friday, adding to his already active Twitter presence. While his social media war with Krug has captured the attention of fans across the NHL, Coach Cassidy is also a fan of the camaraderie.
"There's stuff he says that makes me laugh," said Cassidy. "I do love the battle he has with Krug right now. I'm waiting anxiously for Krug's retort, and I'm not even on it, right? So, I'm probably the last one to find out. I have to watch NESN or the NHL Network to get it, but I think that's been hilarious. Good stuff."
The Bruins' leading scorer is enjoying the team chemistry on and off the ice and says that social media is a good way for fans to experience the daily comradery too.
"We're having fun," said Marchand. "We're having fun at the rink. We're having fun away from it. I think everybody getting involved in social media and showing people how we play with each other and how we joke around with one and other, the fun that we have in the room and off the ice, it just gives them a little bit of an inside look into our relationships. It shows that we have a lot of fun together…I think it definitely translates to when we play and how we play for one and other."
Video: Marchand discusses NHLPA award
The Bruins take on the Devils for the final time this season, with the teams having split the first two meetings, including Boston's 1-0 victory earlier this month at TD Garden. New Jersey is without last year's Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall after knee surgery, as well as leading scorer Kyle Palmieri, second-leading scorer Nico Hischier, and blue liner Will Butcher.
The Devils are last in the Metro Division with 63 points. Nevertheless, Cassidy expects a fight, much like the tightly contested matchup on March 2 in Boston.
"Effort," Cassidy said of what he expects from New Jersey. "Obviously they're missing some players out of their lineup that they rely on for production. They're looking for other guys...they'll always play hard, they always have against us. I expect tonight to be no different."
Video: Cassidy readies for NJD as playoffs near
Thursday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Charlie Coyle
Danton Heinen - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Joakim Nordstrom - Noel Acciari - David Backes
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Connor Clifton - Brandon Carlo
John Moore - Steven Kampfer
Scratches: Paul Carey and Torey Krug (concussion)
Video: Coyle talks time on 2nd line