BOSTON - Cameron Hughes will become the first Bruins player to make his NHL debut this season when he suits up on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. The 23-year-old winger, who was selected by the Bruins in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL Draft, was recalled from Providence, where he has recorded two goals and four assists in 13 games this season.
"Obviously pretty exciting," said the Edmonton native, whose parents will fly in from Portland, Oregon, where they were watching his brother play. "You work your whole life to get this chance, so when I heard the news yesterday, I was pretty excited. I'm looking forward to tonight.
"I think I'm just gonna try to do the things that I've done well in Providence, try to do them here, not try to do too much, do what I'm comfortable doing and hopefully that will lead to success.
"At the end of the day, it's still hockey, still the same game. Definitely gonna be nervous, it's natural. But I'm also really excited. I'm looking forward to getting out there."
Video: Hughes Addresses Media Before Making NHL Debut
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy believed that with several injuries to the fourth line - Joakim Nordstrom, Par Lindholm, and David Backes are all sidelined - Hughes would be a strong fit to skate with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner and contribute on the penalty kill.
"Energy guy, good motor," said Cassidy. "Should be able to help us on the penalty kill. That's an area that we're looking to support with certain guys out. He'll be a fit with Kuraly and Wagner, think that will be a good line for him to start with - simple, straight-line game."
Despite a limited training camp after taking a skate to the face during the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, Cassidy believed that Hughes had a solid camp on the heels of a strong first professional campaign last season. Hughes notched 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 52 games for the P-Bruins in 2018-19.
"He was one of their better players as the year went on, certainly finished strong, started making plays, finishing, so he built his offensive game around his energy and work ethic. Good details," said Cassidy. "He's just a guy that will get on pucks and give you what he's got. He should add to whatever line he's on. Will be a good fit in that bottom-six type of role where it's second effort forecheck chances as much as rush chances."
With Hughes a good fit for Boston's fourth line, the Bruins assigned Peter Cehlarik to Providence. Cehlarik, up on an emergency basis, played 9:55 across 17 shifts without a shot on goal in Boston's 5-2 victory over Ottawa on Saturday night.
"I didn't feel he was the best fit for Kuraly and Wagner," said Cassidy. "That doesn't mean he couldn't have done it if he played a certain way because we saw Danton Heinen go through that, a lot of guys a number of years ago - Marchy started that way. That's just not his game right now, so we're not going to force it either."
Cassidy added that he believes Cehlarik has more room for growth, particularly in the details of his game.
"Certainly, Peter's capable of more," said Cassidy. "I thought the puck found him a little more the other night. He didn't make plays. If he's gonna stay up here and that's the type of game he's gonna bring, then he's gonna have to have some level of production. If he does that, then he probably gets a longer look, so that's kind of our discussion this morning.
"I'd like to see him build a few more details into his game, be better on the forecheck, be a little more physical, harder inside - he's a big body. That's stuff he will have to change his approach with. We'll see if he does it."
Video: Cassidy Addresses Media Before Monday's Game vs PIT
Ritchie to Return
After missing one game with an infection, Brett Ritchie will return to the lineup and skate as the third-line right wing alongside Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle.
"Good to go. It was a bruise, not even a bad one, but somehow got infected," said Ritchie. "It came out of nowhere, but I guess it takes a couple days to settle down...I knew it wasn't gonna be a long-term thing. Just sort of day-by-day how it was reacting and I'm glad I only missed the one game, a couple days."
Ritchie, who has two goals and an assist in 11 games this season, believes he has developed some decent chemistry with Coyle and Bjork over the course of training camp and the season's first month.
"We're both big guys, play a similar style, try to hold onto the puck and try and win battles," Ritchie said of Coyle. "Pretty simple, straight line. We know we have some speed on our wing with Bjorkie, so that should work well, I think.
"Coyler's one of the best puck-protecting guys you're gonna see in the league. You can read off him well. The simpler we are, the more battles we win, the harder we are to play against."
Video: Ritchie Returns to the Bruins Lineup vs. PIT
The Penguins, coming off an overtime loss to Edmonton on Saturday night, are entering the matchup at 8-5-1. Pittsburgh is paced - as always - by Sidney Crosby, who leads the team with 17 points in 14 games. Jake Guentzel is the team leader with seven goals.
Evgeni Malkin will be playing just his second game since returning from a four-week (11 games) absence with a lower-body injury. Goalie Matt Murray is expected to get the start in goal. He is 7-3-1 with a 2.17 goals against average and .924 save percentage.
Pittsburgh is uncharacteristically ranked 24th on the power play and ninth on the penalty kill.
"A lot of resilience. They've had some injuries but stayed afloat," said Cassidy. "Power play is very good, but not finishing. But they're dangerous and they're creating chances. We've got to be careful there, not get fooled by the numbers not being as high as it typically is.
"Goaltending is strong again. Not a lot has changed with the way they play. They're fast, they execute, so we've got to make sure we keep it in their end and possess it on the O-zone, force them to defend which has given us success in the past. Hasn't been a ton."
Video: Hughes Debuts, Ritchie Returns & Penguins on Tap
Wait, There's More
- Per Cassidy, Backes reported more improvement on Monday morning but will not play against the Penguins or on Tuesday night in Montreal.
- Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal. Halak is 3-1-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and .919 save percentage.
- After sitting out Saturday night's game as a healthy scratch, Connor Clifton will swap back in for Steven Kampfer on Boston's third pairing.
Monday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Brett Ritchie
Cameron Hughes - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton