(The game is not being broadcast locally in the Boston market. Live stats and updates will be available via Twitter @NHLBruins ^CS.)
Patrice Bergeron is set to play in his first preseason game of 2013-14.
"It was not an issue of him not being able to take [contact]; it was an issue of him getting through the little bit he had left," B's Head Coach Claude Julien told reporters Saturday morning before heading to Detroit, of what was holding Bergeron back.
From the first day of training camp, the centerman was involved in all the drills, including battling and contact.
"You know, he kept saying 'I’m 95% ready.' Well, I think the 5% was probably his mind making sure he really felt good and he could take hits and everything else."
"He’s at that stage now where he feels he’s ready to play. We did the same thing with Gregory [Campbell]; both those guys at the beginning of camp, we seemed to be looking at them maybe playing the last few games before the season started but they’re ahead of schedule and our medical staff doesn’t feel any need to hold them back."
"He might not be in game condition but that’s why we have those exhibition games," Julien added (and Bergeron would agree that getting into games is the best next step in his recovery).
"In practice, he looks good, he’s skating, shooting the puck well and everything else. It’s a matter now of him finding his game in the game itself and with his teammates."
Those teammates are looking forward to helping him do just that.
"I’m sure it was a busy summer for him, not only did he get married, but he also had to heal up from last year and he looks good out there," said fellow center and alternate captain, Chris Kelly.
"And I’m sure he’s anxious to get going."
On D, Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton will likely be paired together. The other four rotated throughout morning skate: Torey Krug, Johnny Boychuk, Kevan Miller and Mike Moore.
Starter: Chad Johnson
Backup: Niklas Svedberg
Coach Julien admitted it was tough to assess Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson's games in Baltimore against the Washington Capitals without Bergeron making the trip and centering the wingers. Marchand said he does feel a little bit lost out there without his usual pivot. The difficult ice conditions didn't help.
Now, Julien is looking forward to finally seeing the trio in action.
"Just to kind of let them play and kind of find that chemistry," Julien said, of what he'll be watching for tonight.
"If there’s anything I’ve kind of told them, at times, I found them trying to over-pass, always trying to make that extra pass, and they have to get over that."
"I think they’re all trying to be nice to each other right now but at the same time, they want to get a feel of each other so I get that part of it."
"They have to be efficient and when it’s time to shoot they have to shoot. And that chemistry will come with playing games."
Correcting Mistakes vs Detroit
It's tough to call it a "rematch," as both squads will be icing fairly different lineups than the Wings' 8-2 win over the Bruins on Thursday night at TD Garden.
But, still, it serves as an opportunity to put the learning from the 8-2 stinger to good use.
"I think execution needs to be better," said Chris Kelly. "They’re a good hockey team regardless of who’s in their lineup; they have an extremely deep team. I think just managing the puck a little better and mingling and just being in a better position throughout the course of the game will definitely help."
Torey Krug, one of the B's who played on Thursday against Detroit, knows exactly what needs to be improved for the second go-round.
"I think one thing we really look at is our compete level, especially from a defensive side of the puck, closing down on gaps early, taking away their time and space," said the blueliner. "I think we were a little hesitant. We let them do too much with the puck and they had way too much time to do things with the puck. It all stems from compete level and that’s one thing that coach kind of mentioned to the guys on the ice [in practice Friday] and we concentrated on."
This is the first game we'll see all of the players frequently being mentioned in the heated competition for the "bottom six" on opening night.
"I think good competition is what we want and you try to talk to them and give them some advice, and go out there and play their game," said Kelly.
"They’re all good players and they all bring different aspects of the game so it should be exciting for them."
"It kind of gives you an indication - we’re really looking at those guys and making sure we have a clear read on what they can bring to our hockey club," said Julien.
"As we get closer to the end, we’re going to have to start making decisions so it’s important that we have all those guys in there and give them a chance to showcase what they can bring to our hockey club."
"You want to give them that opportunity because they’ve earned it and they deserve it and for our sake, we need to make the right decisions. And the only way to make the right decisions is by watching them play more."
Johnson Between the Pipes
Chad Johnson is expected to play his first full game tonight between the pipes. His first half-game outing in Montreal saw him let in three goals on eight shots (B's ended up winning 6-3), so he's been looking forward to another opportunity since that night.
"Absolutely; this is what training camp is for," said Julien, of giving Johnson the chance. "As much as Malcolm was really good in Montreal, he was actually not bad, he had some weak goals the other night but that’s what happens in camp."
"So just because he may not have been at his best in Montreal doesn’t mean he’s not going to be really good tonight. So we have to have a look at those guys as well because we’ll have a decision to make when it comes to our backup."
"Obviously there’s a young goaltender that probably needs to play, we know that, but there’s two other guys there that are really battling hard to earn that second spot."
Homecoming for Krug
Tonight at The Joe marks Torey Krug's first time ever playing in his 'hometown.' The Michigan native is from Livonia, about 20 minutes outside Detroit.
Boston will see Detroit much more throughout the season, now that the Red Wings have switched to the Eastern Conference and are joining the B's in the new Atlantic Division.
"I’m looking forward to it; it’s going to be great," said Krug. "They’ve always had a great hockey team since I was born; grew up watching them win Stanley Cups. They’re a great hockey team that people can use as a gauge to see where they’re at."
"We are similar in that we expect to win the Stanley Cup every year and I think they do too. That’s what makes both organizations great. So it’s definitely going to be a good rivalry and I’m looking forward to being a part of it."