BOSTON - Interim Head Coach Bruce Cassidy started his tenure with the Bruins on a high note Thursday night, notching a 6-3 victory over the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks.
The B's will look to expand on Thursday's success with a back-to-back sequence at home on Saturday and Sunday against Vancouver and then Montreal, before taking five days away from the rink during the team's bye week.
Saturday afternoon's contest against the Canucks marks the first of two between the clubs this season. The two teams split decisions last season, with the Bruins outscoring Vancouver 6-4 over the two games.
Puck drop is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Here is what you need to know:
Back to Work
Cassidy's bunch had jump all night long against the Sharks, winning puck races and battles, and capitalizing on chances created by their hustle and aggressive forecheck.
For the new head coach, there is always room for improvement, but he generally liked the B's 60-minute effort in front of the Bruins faithful who trekked through a foot of snow to support their hockey club.
"We addressed areas of our game last night that we've been focusing on the previous couple of days and we did well, and we talked about a few areas that we need to improve on," said Cassidy.
Cassidy made a number of tweaks to the forward lines, most notably moving David Backes onto the right wing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. The move paid dividends, with the trio collecting a combined nine points on the night.
"Well, that seems to be a coveted spot and everyone seems to fit there," said Backes, who scored the game's opening goal 52 seconds into the first period. "With those two guys and the way that they play and support each other, and the chemistry, it's an awesome spot to be."
Video: Chara returns to practice as Bruins get back to work
Cassidy continued to tweak the lineup on Friday. Peter Cehlarik, who was called up from Providence on Tuesday, slotted into the left wing spot on David Krejci and David Pastrnak's line during line rushes. He could be in line to make his NHL debut on Saturday
Cehlarik, a Bruins third round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, has had a strong run of success in Providence, In 40 games this season, the 21-year old Slovakian native has posted 18 goals and 15 assists with a plus/minus rating of plus-nine.
"It's a dream to be here," said Cehlarik. "If I get a chance to play, I'm going to do my best to help the team."
If Saturday is indeed Cehlarik's first NHL game, he will likely sport the same sweater as one of Slovakia's greatest athletes, Zdeno Chara.
Chara, who missed Thursday's game due to an illness, was back at practice on Friday, skating alongside his normal defensive partner, Brandon Carlo.
Barring any setbacks, Big Zee thinks he'll be ready to play on Saturday.
"I had a good practice with the team today and I'm feeling much better," Chara said after Friday's skate. "A lot of progress from yesterday to today. So, I should be good to go for [Saturday]."
Opposing View: Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks (24-24-6, 54 points) come into Boston desperate for a victory to help boost their playoff chances. Vancouver currently sits six points back of Los Angeles for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, with a game in hand.
Bruins fans will see a familiar face in Loui Erikkson. Erikkson, who scored 30 goals for the Bruins last season, signed a six-year contract with Vancouver during the offseason.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin, two of only several players who were part of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final remaining on the roster, are still going strong. Henrik, who has 34 points this season (11 goals, 23 assists), is tied for the team-lead alongside Bo Hovrat (15 goals, 19 assists), who made his first trip to an NHL All-Star Game two weeks ago in Los Angeles.
Ryan Miller figures to be the backstop for Vancouver in Saturday's matinee. Miller has played 33 games this year, sporting a 15-4-3 record with a goals against average of 2.56 and a save percentage of .918.
Vancouver is 27th in the league in goals for (2.30 goals per game) and 19th in the NHL in goals against (2.81 goals per game).
Wait, There's More
- David Pastrnak has been on a roll of late, registering 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his last six games. Pastrnak has posted two or more points in all but one of those games.
- Patrice Bergeron (four goals, eight assists) and Brad Marchand (seven goals, five assists) both enter the game with six-game points streaks.
- The Bruins will host "Hockey is For Everyone" night during the game against the Canucks. Bruins players will use pride tape on their sticks during warmups and those sticks will later be auctioned off with the proceeds benefitting the You Can Play Project.
- Saturday's contest will mark the 116th all-time meeting between the Bruins and the Canucks. The B's hold a 70-29-15-1 record against Vancouver, outscoring them 453-321.