LOS ANGELES - Karson Kuhlman will become the sixth Bruin this season to make his NHL debut, when he suits up against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Saturday night with Boston aiming for its fifth straight win.
Kuhlman joins Connor Clifton, Trent Frederic, Jeremy Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, and Jakub Zboril as those that have played their first NHL games in 2018-19.
"Obviously very excited, something that every hockey player dreams about and pretty fortunate that it's happening tonight for me in L.A. At the same time, it's just hockey. I just have to focus on what I do well to help the team out," said Kuhlman, whose parents are flying in from Minnesota for the occasion.
The 23-year-old will play the right wing on Boston's third line, alongside Joakim Nordstrom and Trent Frederic.
"Obviously Freddy and I played together a little bit down in Providence earlier this year, got good chemistry," said Kuhlman. "And obviously Nordy's a great two-way player. Hopefully just chip in, do what I do, and take care of pucks."
Video: Kuhlman speaks ahead of NHL debut
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy pointed out Kuhlman's pace and reliability as the traits that make him a good fit in that spot.
"He doesn't have Back's size, but he has pace to be on pucks, probably similar to Nordy that way," said Cassidy. "He's chipped in offensively down there - that we don't know, how that will play out. Good penalty killer, so he'll be more of a penalty kill guy than a power play guy, so that changes that dynamic. We'll use someone else on the second unit.
"Hopefully he's excited to play, brings some passion to the game tonight. He's been that type of player from college to Providence, very reliable. Should be able to use him against anybody, but I guess we'll see."
With Kuhlman making his NHL debut, David Backes will sit out as the healthy scratch up front, the fourth time in recent weeks that the winger has not played one half of a back-to-back.
"We want to look at Kuhlman, that's why he was brought in here and then we'll decide on Monday [who plays in San Jose]," said Cassidy. "I don't think he's happy about it. I wouldn't be if I was in his shoes. He's a competitive guy, wants to play.
I've talked to him about the situation. We're gonna do what's best for the team. We've done it a couple different times now. Some of it is performance based, some of it is what's good for the team, getting a look at different players and being fresh. It's a bit of both.
"Knowing him as a competitive guy, he's a professional as well. He's not gonna outwardly show it, but I'm sure deep down he wants to play."
Video: Cassidy adjusts lineup vs. Kings
Grzelcyk Back In
After missing the last four games with a lower-body injury, Matt Grzlecyk will return to the lineup in place of John Moore. Grzelcyk will be alongside familiar partner Kevan Miller on Boston's third pair.
"I think sometimes you can get maybe too excited to try and do too much out there," Grzelcyk said of what he has to guard against in his first game back. "But I've kind of been through the situation a couple times, so I think mentally just gonna try to talk with the coaches and know what I have to do in order to help the team have success and not screw anything up because we're playing pretty well right now."
With seven healthy defensemen capable of contributing each night, Grzelcyk acknowledged that there is a feeling of some healthy competition on the back end.
"I think it's a good thing," said Grzelcyk. "I knew the situation coming into the year, but things kind of got screwed up with the injuries most of the season. Just trying to go out there and compete hard and do my job when called upon."
Video: Grzelcyk preps for return to lineup
Saturday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Peter Cehlarik
Joakim Nordstrom - Trent Frederic - Karson Kuhlman
Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Kevan Miller
Scratches: David Backes and John Moore
Video: Bruins take on Kings in LA