BOSTON - The Bruins will play seven of their next eight games at home. And they could be doing so with a much different lineup than they've iced for the season's first five games.
With an important stretch beginning on Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden, Boston may have veteran forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back from injury, while Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik - both of whom were recalled from Providence on Wednesday - may also make their season debuts.
With that being said, none of those players, as well as defenseman Adam McQuaid - he was injured in Vegas on Sunday - have been officially ruled in or out against the Canucks.
"Bergeron made it through [Wednesday's] practice, progressing well," said Cassidy. "In the past we've basically ruled him out ahead of time…we're not ruling him out [Thursday], I'm not saying he's in. Backes looks closer to being ready to play - and McQuaid for that matter."
Video: Rask leaves practice, Bergeron Update and Injury News
Bergeron (lower-body) and Backes (diverticulitis) have not played this season, but would bring a much-needed boost up front. On the other hand, Ryan Spooner has been lost for four to six weeks with a right groin adductor tear suffered in Vegas on Sunday and starting goalie Tuukka Rask left Wednesday's practice after a collision with Anders Bjork in the crease.
Cassidy did not have an update following the session, but said the team would be comfortable sliding in backup Anton Khudobin if necessary.
"We liked the way Anton played last year at the end of the year, we liked he's camp, we liked his first game," said Cassidy. "We sort of mapped out the schedule for October, we're gonna stick to that. Obviously if we have to deviate because of an injury then we'll do that and have confidence in him for sure."
Video: Bjork and Cassidy speak about Rask's exit
With so many moving parts and question marks heading into their tilt with the Canucks (7 p.m. EST, NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub), Cassidy stopped short of guaranteeing that Cehlarik and Agostino would be immediately inserted into the lineup. On Wednesday, the duo was sandwiched around Riley Nash as Boston's fourth line.
Cehlarik and Agostino had been teamed up with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, where they formed one of the best lines in the AHL. Through three games, they were the P-Bruins' top three scorers, combining for 16 points (6 goals, 10 assists).
"If they're in the lineup and both playing, that's definitely a possibility," Cassidy said when asked if he would be inclined to keep the two together. "They skated with Nash today. Nash has some [similar] qualities…with JFK a right-shot centerman, plays a good 200-foot game, that may be the case. But until we sort out who's in and out tomorrow - it starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes and goes from there.
"But, yes, we do like their chemistry and ideally if they could play together [that]
probably helps them as much as it helps us."
Agostino, who was named the AHL's Player of the Week on Monday, was leading Providence with 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists).
"The past couple years it's just been control what you can control and get better every day," said Agostino. "I think I've continued to do that and it doesn't do anyone any good to get frustrated. It's an opportunity to get better and I think I did that…I worked hard down in Providence…happy to be back here."
Vancouver is fresh off a 3-0 win over Ottawa on Tuesday night and is 2-2-1 this season, which places the Canucks fourth in the Pacific Division (5 points). The Canucks are paced by rookie Brock Boeser, who has two goals and two assists in three games this season.
Thomas Vanek has notched two goals and an assist in five games, while Alexander Burmistrov has added a goal and two assists. The Sedin twins are off to slower starts with just two points apiece.
Goalie Jacob Markstrom has posted a 1-2-1 record in four games, with a 2.96 goals against average and .902 save percentage. Anders Nilsson played on Tuesday against the Senators and made 32 saves in the shutout.
Wait, There's More
- It could be a milestone-filled game for the Bruins. Tim Schaller's next game will be his 100th NHL contest, Tuukka Rask's next game will be the 400th of his career, and Patrice Bergeron's next game will be the 900th of his career. Bergeron is 3 points shy of tying Ken Hodge for 7th place on the team's all-time scoring list (674 points).
- Riley Nash is 1 point short of his 100th NHL point, while David Backes is 2 points short of his 500th NHL point.
- The Bruins and Canucks are meeting for the 118th time in their histories with the Bruins having a 72-29-15-1 record and 463-327 scoring edge in those games.
- The Bruins are 41-10-7-1 vs. the Canucks lifetime in Boston with a 234-141 scoring advantage in those 59 contests.
- The Bruins swept the season series vs. Vancouver last year with a 4-3 win in Boston on Feb. 11 and a 6-3 victory in Vancouver on March 13. They are 7-5-1 in their last 13 games overall vs. the Canucks.