Raleigh, NC - Following Carolina's skate this morning in Raleigh - where we got a glimpse at the Canes' speedy sniper Jeff Skinner, new addition Alexander Semin and center brother duo of Jordan and Eric Staal - all of the Bruins hit the ice in preparation to shut down those offensive talents.
The one Bruin missing from skate was Adam McQuad - the defenseman did not travel with the team to Raleigh (due to non-injury related reasons) and is expected to be back in the lineup in Boston on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.
In his absence, Aaron Johnson will suit up in the spoked-B, most likely alongside Andrew Ference. We'll have a better idea of exact defensive pairings in warm-ups during line rushes tonight - for what it's worth - Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk were alternating D-pairings at one end of the ice during pregame skate, while Aaron Johnson, Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton alternated at the other.
Anton Khudobin was the first goaltender for the B's off at morning skate, indicating he will get the start in goal tonight against Carolina. Khudobin has never started against the Canes, and is looking forward to the opportunity, having only been between the pipes in Black & Gold once before, earning a 3-1 win over Ottawa last season on April 5, 2012.
"It's been a pretty long time ago, but at the same time I know what to expect, and I know what it's going to be," Khudobin said following morning skate. "I've never played against Carolina, but it's going to be a first experience. It's going to be a good first experience."
The B's goaltender has a career NHL record of 5-1-0 - with only the one Ottawa game coming as a Bruin and the rest as part of the Minnesota Wild from 2009-11. So he will definitely feel the "first NHL game" excitement and adrenaline - but has been staying fresh and ready for whenever he got the call.
"I feel kind of like that [like my first NHL game] because I didn't play in a long time. It's been so far away between games," said Khudobin, in his first "starting goaltender" media scrum of the year. "But, it's just the start of the season. I feel like now - it's the start of the new season."
Not only does the netminder - and his fellow competitor Tuukka Rask - have confidence in Khudobin's abilities - the comfort is felt team-wide and from Coach Julien.
"I think he's a great goalie. I'm looking forward to him playing a lot of games for us this year," Tyler Seguin said following morning skate. "Tuuks can't do it every night, so we have the utmost confidence in Dobby."
Center David Krejci, who will have his own work cut out for him helping shut down Carolina's top line, expects Khudobin to be solid in net.
"He had been playing great in Russia this year," said Krejci, on Khudobin's time playing for Moscow Oblast Atlant in the KHL during the work stoppage. "So far what I've seen in practice, he's been doing a pretty good job. He competes hard. He deserved the start tonight, and hopefully he'll do well. We're going to try to help him as much as we can."
"No matter what, you have to use both goaltenders in this short schedule," Coach Julien said on Anton's start tonight. "We have to rely on both of them. We have confidence in both of them. I said that from the get-go. And he has an opportunity to show that tonight."
Turning the Page on Carolina
It's not news that the B's struggled against Carolina and goaltender Cam Ward last season (you can read more about changing that misfortune here) - but Boston has turned the page on last year's woes and is looking for a great start tonight.
"I think we need to be extremely good tonight and play our game," said Coach Julien. "That's maybe an understatement. We also know that we're a team that they like to get up for, and that's the reputation we've built over the years. It's a good thing, but it also keeps us on our toes."
"They play us extremely well. They always have. They're real aggressive on the forecheck, and they're really aggressive on the attack. That's given us trouble in the past."
Facing Hurricanes' Top Offensive Threats
Carolina's offense is starting to heat up and has scored nine goals in its past two games - both wins over the Buffalo Sabres. One such offensive talent is captain Eric Staal, who just recently jumped into second place on Carolina's all-time goals list with 253, following a hat trick against the Sabres. The Hurricanes' offense has been averaging 39.5 shots per game to rank first in the NHL - and their top guns like Jeff Skinner and newcomers Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin have also been producing.
(Something to also note is that Carolina will be missing offsensively-minded defenseman Justin Faulk tonight, as he has been out with an upper-body injury and Canes' Head Coach Kirk Muller said he's a "no" for the game. Faulk finished last season tied for first in goals among rookie defensemen and second in points, and also sees extensive time on the power play.)
"Well, there's some teams that have made some changes and some additions," Coach Julien said on Carolina's new faces this season. "Semin is a really good goal-scorer. There's no doubt about that. And, obviously, the Staal brothers together make an even bigger impact. [Semin] was one of the best two-way players in the league, so he's certainly a guy that you have to respect a lot. Good size, very reliable and dependable. They've added some good pieces to the puzzle that's making them a better team."
The Bruins - like in every game - will rely on their sound, defense-first approach to shut down Carolina's speed and not give them any open ice.
"We're a very big, defense-first team. We know that our line against their top line is Krejci's. We always know who we're out there against," said Seguin on the B's simple approach to wearing down Carolina's first line.
"I think we have good shutdown D, and we have to make sure our goalie is confident back there with all of us in front of him. I'm looking forward to that opportunity."
And that strong two-way play, coupled with the B's strong blueline, will help Khudobin settle into his first start and build confidence between the pipes.
"The first thing, I think, is seeing the puck," said Khudobin on how his teammates will help him from puck drop. "They know what they need to do, I know what I need to do, and will do it. We'll be on the same page. "
"I think we've been playing pretty well defensively," added Krejci. "We just got to keep going and take care of our own end, and capitalize on our rushes."
Those chances have been coming in bunches for both Krejci and Seguin - who have yet to find the back of the net, but know if they keep bearing down, the goals will come.
"I think I've had plenty of opportunities," said Seguin." I think when one comes, they're all going to come. I'm waiting for that moment, and I'm still trying to bury down on my opportunities."
Starting with the Faceoff
Boston has led in the faceoff circle through its first four games this season - something that has been a staple of this team for the past few years - and doesn't looking to be trending downward anytime soon. David Krejci has been above 55-percent for the past three games going up against the opposing team's top centers, while Patrice Bergeron has continued to put up solid faceoff numbers as well (74-percent against the Islanders on Jan. 25; 80-percent on Jan. 23 vs. the Rangers).
"It all starts with the faceoff," said Krejci following morning skate today, on his match-up with Eric Staal. "If you win it, you start with the puck and you don't have to chase it. It's very important for me."
"If you lose, it takes a big effort and a lot of energy to get the puck back. If you win it, then you start with the puck and can start your offense. We've been focusing on that the whole year. Not just this year, but the last few years as well. We've been pretty good so far but it's only been four games, so we have to keep it going."