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Need to Know: Bruins vs. Stars

Kase to make debut alongside Ritchie, Krejci as Boston looks to get back on track

by Eric Russo @erusso22 / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - The Bruins' second line will look quite a bit different on Thursday night as they aim to snap their two-game losing skid against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden.

But for Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, things probably won't feel all that unusual.

The former Ducks wingers - acquired by the Bruins via trade just three days apart - will be together against the Stars as they flank long-time pivot David Krejci. 

"It's actually pretty nice for me," said Kase, who will make his Bruins debut and suit up for his first NHL game since suffering an upper-body injury on Feb. 7. "I know how [Ritchie] plays, he knows how I play. I think it helps…he's a very strong guy. He can win so many battles and play the body. It's a help to me…I can't wait for the game tonight. Hopefully I make it a good nap and be ready for it."

Kase and Ritchie played together at times in Anaheim, often having success with Adam Henrique as their center. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is hoping the duo can tap into some of that chemistry as they give Krejci a new look with size and strength on one side and skill and speed on the other.

"Sometimes having some familiarity right out of the gate's not a bad thing either, especially when we're trying new lines," said Cassidy. "Krech is the only one, I guess, that will have the biggest adjustment cause he's got two new wingers. Big body on one side; he's accustomed to playing with that over the years.

"With that part, I think he'll be comfortable, a guy that goes to the net, makes plays off the wall. It's one thing Nick did the other night, he got pucks off the wall. Krech likes that on the breakout, going through the neutral zone.

"Kase, a little bit of an unknown for us, but he's a shooter. They should be able to communicate well because they're from the same country, but that doesn't always mean there will be chemistry. But that will be an advantage there.

"We'll see where it goes. We're not expecting instant chemistry. If we get it, that's fantastic. If we don't, we'll keep working on it."

Video: Kase talks to media before Bruins' debut

The good news, Cassidy said, is that neither winger is expected to come in and be a savior. Kase and Ritchie - both of whom are expected to see time on the B's second power-play unit - were acquired to be complementary pieces around the core that helped Boston to the Stanley Cup Final last spring.

"When you make these deals, they're complementary players, in terms of we don't expect them to go in and lead our team so to speak," said Cassidy. "It's great if they go out and they're the best player on the ice tonight, but in general we know the guys that have to drive this team, it's guys down the middle of the ice.

"These guys have to go in and fit in, play Bruins hockey, play to the best of their ability and we'll see where they best fit."

With Ritchie playing on Krejci's left, Jake DeBrusk is shifting to a line with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork, a trio that has looked solid in limited time together. Cassidy also felt it was time to split up Krejci and DeBrusk, whose chemistry had seemed to cool of late.

"Jake and Krech haven't been as effective as they were earlier, so putting [DeBrusk] with Coyle isn't a bad thing. They've had some chemistry, so we'll see where it goes," said Cassidy. "I just think with Coyle, Jake has done OK with him in the past and I think Bjork was on that wing. When [Kasron] Kuhlman goes in, it's an easy switch back.

"When you have new bodies, you've got to try things. That's, more than anything, what we're trying to do right now, see what fits best together without getting too far away from the plan."

Back on the Rails 

The Bruins will attempt to snap their brief two-game skid on Thursday night by getting back to their patented tough-to-play-against style. Patrice Bergeron believes Boston has made it to easy for its opponents over the past couple of contests.

"You can't be concerned, you've got to be making sure you realize you can't give teams easy ways and I thought that's what we did," said Bergeron. "We got away from being hard on the puck…[we're] making bad decisions at times and not taking care of the areas of the game that we're usually really good at. Tighten that up and go from there."

Video: Bergeron talks to media after Thursday Practice

Opposing View 

The Bruins and Stars are meeting for the first time since Opening Night, a 2-1 Boston victory at American Airlines Center. Dallas has turned the corner since Rick Bowness took over as interim head coach on Dec. 10, posting a 20-9-3 record in that span, while surging to third place in the Western Conference and Central Division (80 points).

Dallas ranks second in the league in goals against (2.51), just behind the Bruins (2.45), while ranking 10th on the power play (21.4%). The Stars are led offensively by former Bruins winger Tyler Seguin, who had 48 points in 63 games. Jamie Benn, Roope Hintz, and Denis Gurianov are all tied for the team lead with 18 goals apiece.

"We all know that they're a team with a lot of talent, offensively and even [on the back end], they have a lot of guys that can make plays," said Bergeron. "Good speed. For us, nothing really changes. We've got to make sure that we have the type of hockey that we want to play. We have to try to tighten up defensively a lot more than the last few games.

"That's something that's gonna be a point of emphasis tonight. We need to make sure we do the right defensively before thinking offense. The power play is really good as well, stay out of the box and stay disciplined."

Goalie Ben Bishop (21-13-4, 2.45 GAA, .922 save %) will get the star between the pipes.

Video: Cassidy meets with media ahead of Thursday night game

Thursday's Projected Lineup

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak

Nick Ritchie - David Krejci - Ondrej Kase

Jake DeBrusk - Charlie Coyle - Anders Bjork

Sean Kuraly - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner

 

Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy

Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon

 

Jaroslav Halak

Tuukka Rask

 

Scratches: Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, John Moore, and Joakim Nordstrom.

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