BOSTON - The 2014-15 season opens for the Bruins on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
The team held a pregame skate on Wednesday morning, with 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies on the ice.
David Krejci and Gregory Campbell were both absent from the skate.
With Tuesday evening's transactions for the opening day roster, Krejci was placed on Injured Reserve. He sustained an undisclosed injury in Saturday's preseason finale, and Head Coach Claude Julien said Tuesday that it's not healing as quickly as they originally thought. Krejci is not eligible to return until after Saturday's game.
Campbell was placed on Non-Roster Injured Reserve on Tuesday. He missed the preseason with a mid-core injury, and just started skating last week. (Non-Roster IR refers to a player who "failed the club's initial physical examination in any League Year, or who is injured, ill or disabled while not on the Club's Active Roster," as outlined in the NHL's CBA.)
With Krejci and Campbell out, that opens the door up front for players to get opportunities, at least from the outset.
According to rushes during pregame skate, due to Krejci's absence, Spooner will be centering a line with Milan Lucic and Matt Fraser. Spooner has filled in for Krejci before due to injury. He and Fraser played together last season in Providence. Fraser said when they were both in the lineup, they were always a duo. Spooner somehow always found him on the ice. That should help.
Fraser and Spooner should also have some jump from being on the opening night roster. They've earned the opportunity to try and solidify themselves at the NHL level; it's up to them to keep themselves in the mix.
Because of injuries, Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson are expected to be reunited for the opener. They didn't play together during the preseason, with Eriksson getting a chance on the right wing alongside Lucic and Krejci, but it wouldn't be surprising to see their chemistry pick up where it left off last season. The trio could have been a force in the 2014 playoffs, had Kelly not suffered a season-ending back injury.
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith are the only trio that's a sure bet to stick together for not only opening night, but possibly the entire season, if they continue to find the chemistry that made them a potent line in 2013-14.
The fourth lines gets rounded out (according to pregame rushes, and Tuesday's practice) with Craig Cunningham centering Daniel Paille and Bobby Robins.
Paille will provide the veteran presence, with Cunningham slotting in for the injured Campbell and Robins bringing a gritty, high-energy game. He'll get the TD Garden crowd going in some fashion on Wednesday night.
Cunningham made his NHL debut with Boston in 2013-14, suiting up in two games. The fourth year pro has earned this chance, no matter how long he stays, having put up three straight 20-goal seasons with Providence and consistently putting forth a strong work ethic.
Robins has been, to quote Julien, the "feel-good story" heading into opening night, after nearly a decade of scraping his way through the minors. He's expected to make his NHL debut on Wednesday night, at the age of 32.
On the back end, the Bruins will quickly adjust to a defense corps that does not include Johnny Boychuk.
"We’ve got seven defensemen that are regulars in the NHL - so, a top four role, I think there’s a lot of guys that can play in those roles. Torey Krug is a good defenseman, so is Adam McQuaid when he’s healthy. [Kevan] Miller showed us how good he can be. [Matt] Bartkowski played in the top four," said Julien.
"You’re going to say - you’re going to argue with us that maybe that’s not the guy you win a Stanley Cup with. Guys, they’ve got the experience, and right now we feel comfortable with the seven guys we have."
"Now, is it a hole to fill or does it just mean that we went from eight capable NHL defensemen to seven? That’s how I have to look at it."
Led by the same group of core players from years past, the [fairly] new-look Bruins will look to mesh quickly and set the tempo for the season with a strong showing against the Flyers, before facing the Red Wings in Detroit in a back-to-back situation on Thursday night.
It won't stop there, as the season kicks off in a hurry, with seven games in the first 11 days.
Projected Lineup vs. Philadelphia 10/8
Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - Matt Fraser
Daniel Paille - Craig Cunningham - Bobby Robins
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg - Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug - Kevan Miller
Scratch: Matt Bartkowski
On a Professional Tryout Agreement: Simon Gagne
Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg