BOSTON - It's been years since Jake DeBrusk shed his fandom of the Edmonton Oilers.
His allegiances changed as soon as he heard his named called as the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and he pulled the Spoked-B over his chest. But despite being in the midst of his fourth season with the Bruins organization, the Edmonton native still keeps tabs on his hometown team.
So, while his main focus will be on helping Boston pick up two points on Saturday afternoon when the teams face off on Saturday afternoon, you can bet he'll be enjoying his front-row seat to a matchup that includes four of the NHL's top five scorers - Connor McDavid (64 points, 1st), Leon Draisaitl (63, 2nd), David Pastrnak (60, 4th), and Brad Marchand (59, 5th).
"Obviously some pretty good players, some pretty elite company there," said DeBrusk. "They're my hometown team, so I obviously keep tabs on them and understand how good those two players are as well. They've got a different look this year, our first meeting, got to be aware while they're on the ice, that's for sure."
Like the Bruins, Edmonton gets much of its offensive production from the top of the lineup. In addition to McDavid and Draisaitl - the Oilers No. 1 and No. 2 centers - top-line wingers James Neal (19-8--27) and Zack Kassian (13-14-27) also clock in with double-digit goal totals.
Edmonton - the West's second wild-card team with a 21-17-5 record and 47 points - also boasts the league's top power play with a 30% success rate. The Bruins rank third at 27.2%.
"Some pretty skilled players…they're a good team," said Brandon Carlo, who will have the task of shutting down one of Edmonton's top lines. "But overall, we don't back down from anybody, so it's a fun challenge to compete against certain guys. Looking forward to it."
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said the biggest challenge for his squad will not be trying to completely shut down McDavid and Edmonton's top line, but rather trying to limit them as much as possible.
"[McDavid's] a challenge every night," said Cassidy. "He plays in all situations. You can never shut him down, but if you can contain him, you can minimize the damage. Obviously keep the puck out of his hands as much as possible. It's easier said than done. Puck possession for those other guys that are playing against him, finding him early.
"But again, it's a unique challenge in how good he is, but there are other teams that we certainly key on certain guys, guys that we try to chase out of [Jack] Eichel's hands, [Patrick] Kane's, you know, different guys that have come through here, that dynamic.
"That'll be what's in front of us tomorrow, but we've got some pretty good players on our team as well."
Video: Locker Room Raw: Jake DeBrusk
Cassidy Named All-Star
Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask will have some company at the upcoming 2020 All-Star Game in St. Louis, as Cassidy has been named head coach of the Atlantic Division team. The four All-Star head coaches (Todd Reirden, Washington; Craig Berube, St. Louis; and Gerard Gallant, Vegas, are the others) were selected based on having the highest points percentage in their respective divisions at the halfway mark of the season.
"It's an honor, that's what it means to me," said Cassidy, a first-time All-Star head coach, who has led Boston to a 24-7-11 record through 42 games, good for the most points (59) in the NHL along with Washington. "Obviously a reflection of the players and what they've been able to do this year on the ice. I get the benefit of it.
"Thank the staff as well. We all work hard to do our part every day, but obviously the players perform on the ice. They're the ones that should be thanked first. But for me, again, it's an honor. I've never been to one, so looking forward to it."
Video: Press Room: Bruce Cassidy
Wait, There's More
- Marchand (illness), Zdeno Chara (illness), and Joakim Nordstrom (doctor's appointment) all missed Friday's skate but are expected to play on Saturday against the Oilers. "I'm assuming they'll all be good to go tomorrow," said Cassidy.
- Connor Clifton, who was injured on Dec. 29 against Buffalo, has not yet resumed skating.
- Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal against Edmonton.