BOSTON - The Bruins will kick off the new year with some reinforcements as Torey Krug and David Krejci both return to the lineup for Thursday night's matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden.
Krug has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury after taking a heavy hit from Washington forward Tom Wilson during Boston's 7-3 win over the Capitals on Dec. 23. Krejci, meanwhile, sat out Tuesday afternoon's game in New Jersey with a lower-body injury.
Boston could also have Charlie McAvoy back in the lineup, though his status has officially been termed as a game-time decision by coach Bruce Cassidy. Like Krug, McAvoy has sat out the past three games after being run into the boards by Washington forward T.J. Oshie late in the third period, causing him to leave the game with an undisclosed injury.
"Feeling good, was able to skate the last couple days, kind of ramping up a little bit," said McAvoy, who was a full participant in Thursday's pregame skate. "Good skate this morning and we'll just see what happens…it's hockey, I guess. Haven't really thought about [the hit] for a while, just been focusing on myself and the team and trying to cheer these guys on the last week. Just trying to focus on myself and getting better."
With Krejci returning, Cassidy is also making some tweaks up front as Charlie Coyle gets set to move up for another shot as the B's second-line right wing. Danton Heinen will also make his way back into the lineup after sitting out Tuesday's game as a healthy scratch.
"Don't stress too much, just go back in and do anything I can to help the team," said Heinen, who had just one goal and two assists in 14 games during December. "I think I'm harder on myself than anybody. I realize when things aren't going right. Just a matter of getting back to the things that have gotten me here and made me successful."
The Blue Jackets look far different than they did the last time they faced the Bruins during the second round of last spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Columbus lost leading scorer Artemi Panarin (New York Rangers) and starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida Panthers) to free agency.
Columbus, which is playing some of its best hockey of the season as they ride an 11-game point streak (7-0-4), is also suffering through a bevy of injuries. Forwards Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson, Emil Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Brandon Dubinsky, and Sonny Milano, defensemen Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, Andrew Peeke, and Alex Texier, and All-Star goalie Joonas Korpisalo are all sidelined.
Gustav Nyquist paces Columbus with 28 points (9 goals, 19 assists) in 40 games, while Pierre-Luc Dubois leads the way with 13 goals. Blue liners Zach Werenski (11-12-23) and Seth Jones (4-18-22) hold things down on the back end.
"We obviously know the type of team they are, how heavy they are, disciplined to their system," said Krug. "They're always a good matchup. It's fun to play them and two teams that go head to head typically."
Wait, There's More
- Zdeno Chara will join San Jose Sharks forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau on Thursday night in becoming the 12th, 13th, and 14th players in NHL history to play in four different decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s).
- Connor Clifton did not skate on Thursday morning and has been ruled out for at least the next two games after leaving Sunday night's game with an upper-body injury.
- With Krug returning, Jeremy Lauzon was assigned to Providence after playing one game with the big club on Tuesday in New Jersey.
- Anton Blidh, out since training camp because of shoulder surgery, will also rejoin the P-Bruins on an LTI conditioning loan
Thursday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jaken DeBrusk - David Krejci - Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork - Sean Kuraly - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
John Moore - Matt Grzelcyk
Scratches: David Backes, Steven Kampfer, and Brett Ritchie.