BOSTON, MA - The 2013-14 season is finally here. The puck drops tonight at TD Garden at 7:00 p.m. ET with the Bruins hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning in their season opener (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
And when game time comes, David Krejci will be in the lineup, as confirmed by both the centerman and Head Coach Claude Julien following the Bruins' morning skate, in which Krejci anchored usual linemates Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla.
Krejci skated for the first time yesterday since being out with back spasms, and all appears well as he prepares for tonight.
"I feel better than yesterday so I'm good to go tonight," said Krejci, who wasn't bothered by the shots he took this morning in practice and was happy with the way he felt.
"I was a little worried before I took the faceoffs but it felt pretty good," added the centerman, who took an extra round of faceoff with assistant coach Doug Jarvis during morning skate, going through it three times instead of two, to test out how he was feeling.
Caron Filling In
As for Carl Soderberg, he is still unavailable for tonight's game because he's on IR until at least tomorrow [Friday] with swelling around his ankle after hitting a rut in the ice during the preseason game in Saskatoon. But the situation appears to be optimistic, since the B's have not called up an extra forward from Providence.
"We feel that [Carl's] getting close enough that right now there’s no need to bring anybody up. If need be, they’re usually close by," said Julien.
Jordan Caron will fill in on Soderberg's usual left wing spot alongside centerman Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith on the right.
"The line with Soderberg, Kelly and Smith was really good for us the last two games they played together and we know how good Campbell’s line has been over the years. So if we could get some sort of stability there, and Jordan stepping in when called upon, which is right now, and we’ll see," said Julien, of gaining stability in his "bottom six."
With Soderberg out, we'll have to wait a few games before seeing that chemistry play out again, but Caron, Kelly and Smith did play with each other on a line for at least the first week of training camp, so there will be some familiarity there come tonight.
"Jordy's a good forward, he can fill in for the stuff that Carl's good at, a big body with good skater and be able to protect the puck so I'm not really looking for too much difference," said Smith.
"But hopefully we'll have some chemistry tonight; first game so we'll try our best."
Based on pregame rushes, it appears the pairing of Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk is the best lock for tonight. Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid were paired together, along with Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton to start, but I wouldn't bet on those being the exact pairs, with Matt Bartkowski also rotating in.
I'd expect the blueline situation this season to end up being much like we predict the starting goaltender; Coach Julien won't often play his hand ahead of time, so pregame warm-ups will serve as the best indication.
"It’s a lot of everything. It’s play, it’s what we feel we need, it’s a lot of things that come into play. We spend a lot of time discussing that," said Julien of how the decisions will be made as a staff with coaches and GM Peter Chiarelli.
"It’s an 82-game season so I don’t think there should be anybody discouraged at this point. What we should be encouraged about is that we have, really, seven defensemen that I feel extremely comfortable with."
Opponent could be a factor as we move forward, and Coach Julien warned that thinking it's just Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton competing for two spots, is not the right approach.
"I think there’s other guys who have to make sure they play well also to stay in the lineup, and you’ll probably see that. Sense of entitlement - I don’t want on our hockey club, and I’ve been extremely clear with that. So if there’s times where we got some veterans back there that aren’t playing to their abilities and it’s lasting a little longer than we like, then it may be other people sitting out."
So, who's the defenseman in tonight?
"Tuukka," Julien jested.
As confirmed there, Tuukka Rask will be the Bruin between the pipes, while Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper confirmed that Anders Lindback will be in goal for them.
Boston Projected Lineup
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson
Jordan Caron-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Dougie Hamilton/Matt Bartkowski
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Tampa Bay Projected Lineup
Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Marty St. Louis
Alex Killorn-Valtteri Filppula-Teddy Purcell
Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Richard Panik
Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Nate Thompson-B.J. Crombeen
Victor Hedman-Sami Salo
Eric Brewer-Andrej Sustr
Matt Carle-Radko Gudas