BUFFALO - The Bruins will return from the three-day Christmas break rested and refreshed - but shorthanded - on Friday night for the opener of a home-and-home set against the Buffalo Sabres. Boston will be without blue liners Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy, both of whom exited Monday night's tilt with Washington after taking heavy thumps from Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie, respectively.
Krug was placed on injured reserve on Friday morning and will miss a minimum of three games, while McAvoy is considered "day-to-day" and will be re-assessed before Saturday's practice in Brighton, per Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.
"It's about stepping up," said Patrice Bergeron. "We've been in that position before. It's no different. Missing some key players, players that have been really good for us, great puck-moving defensemen. But it's up to the next guy, it's always about the next man up…everyone's fresh and ready to go and excited about tonight's game."
Boston's blue line bruises are not quite as widespread as they could have been with captain Zdeno Chara set to return after a one-game absence. The 42-year-old underwent a follow-up procedure on his jaw - which he fractured during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final last June - on Monday to remove the plates and pins that were causing an infection.
"It's one of those things that it just happens, it happens quick. You can't really control it for whatever reason," said Chara. "We were at the stage where we tried to settle it first, so first was just a small procedure before the Florida trip [earlier this month].
"We scheduled the surgery before the break so I could take advantage of a few days not skating or pumping blood into that area. It was pre-planned and scheduled ahead of time."
Video: Chara Addresses the Media Before B's Play Sabres
Chara went on to echoe Bergeron's comments about the injuries on the back end, saying that no one should alter their game with Krug and McAvoy sidelined.
"We've just got to play the same way," said Chara, who is expected to be paired up with Brandon Carlo. "We know what Torey brings, we know what Charlie brings, but we all play certain ways. We've just got to play to our strengths and play as a team. I'm sure we will do our best to get the best results."
Joining the depleted defense corps on Friday night will be veteran blue liner Steven Kampfer, who spent the last three weeks with Providence. Kampfer played six games for the P-Bruins, notching four assists as he gained some much-needed game reps.
"It was nice to go play some games, get back in the rhythm of everything," said Kampfer, who has played just 72 games at the NHL level over the last four seasons. "It was nice to go down there and play consistently and play a good amount. I think a lot of it is trying to get confidence back and trying to get your touches and make plays. I think that was the most beneficial part of it.
"They have a good group down there, it was a very welcoming locker room, very fun to go down there and play hockey and just enjoy it a little bit more."
Video: Kampfer slots in on Defense in Buffalo
Wagner Back In
After sitting one game as a healthy scratch, Chris Wagner will be back in his familiar spot as the B's fourth-line right wing. Cassidy is hoping that the Walpole native can ignite more of the offensive game he brought last season when he tallied a career-high 12 goals and 19 points.
"Just get to his game, be physical, finish checks, eat pucks when the situation dictates, help on the penalty kill," Cassidy said of what he'll be looking for from the 28-year-old. "I also think he's capable of a little more offensively in terms of making plays. I thought he's fought the puck a little bit. Sometimes that's confidence so we've got to help him with that.
"Hopefully it comes. Sometimes you're the beneficiary of a nice play, you finish it, and you turn the corner...go score a greasy type of goal which is typically how that line scores."
With Wagner back in, Brett Ritchie will be a healthy scratch along with David Backes. Jaroslav Halak gets the start in goal.
After a hot start to the season, the Sabres are 8-12-5 since Nov. 1, though they remain just 1 point behind Montreal for third place in the Atlantic Division. Buffalo has also remained strong on home ice with an 11-3-3 record at KeyBank Center this season.
Buffalo is paced by Chelmsford, Mass., native Jack Eichel, who has been immense during December. His 16 points this month rank third in the NHL, while his eight goals are tied for second. Overall, Eichel has 51 points (sixth in the NHL) and 24 goals (tied second) in 37 games this season.
Former Bruins forward Marcus Johansson will play against his old mates for the first time tonight after missing the teams' first meeting in November because of injury. Johansson teamed up with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen to form a potent third line during Boston's run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring.
In 22 postseason games, Johansson - acquired from New Jersey at the trade deadline - notched 11 points (four goals, seven assists).
"It will be fun - different for sure," said Johansson. "Getting to know those guys like I did, even in that short amount of time, was something I cherish a lot…looking forward to it. It's always special playing against an old team. It was a special time last year. Pretty sure it will be a new feeling."
Video: Johanson gets set to play some familiar faces
Friday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Danton Heinen
Sean Kuraly - Charlie Coyle - Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
John Moore - Steven Kampfer
Video: Bergeron Addresses Media Before Facing Buffalo