The Flames come in on a sesaon-high five-game losing streak, having lost 5-3 in Philadelphia on Monday night, and Boston will be looking to bounce back from a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The focus for the Bruins, though, is on their own team.
Tuesday marked a busy morning at TD Garden, with trade deadline acquisitions Lee Stempniak (from New Jersey) and John-Michael Liles (from Carolina) joining the team, as well as Providence callup Noel Acciari, who will likely make his NHL debut.
All three players participated in the Bruins’ optional pregame skate. About an hour and a half before the skate, Chris Kelly — out since suffering a broken femur on Nov. 3 — skated for the first time in his recovery process.
Head Coach Claude Julien and the Black & Gold will now embark on the final 19 games of the regular season, and try to climb up the standings to put themselves in a better playoff position.
“I think we’re always trying to get better here, and he’s added players to our team so that we can be even more competitive,” Julien said of General Manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins’ trade deadline moves. “So we should look at that as a sign of a general manager who believes in us and thinks we can get better here.”
Along with the additions, the Bruins opted to keep Loui Eriksson (Sweeney said the deal needed to be right to trade him before the deadline), and that will keep the group competitive as well. Now, they can breath easy and focus on the playoff push.
“It’s always a tense moment the day of the final trade deadline and then the next day it’s the complete opposite, guys are happy they’re here,” said Julien. “Given Loui’s situation, to know that he’s here makes a big difference for him.”
“I could sense the last couple of games he wasn’t as comfortable as I’d seen him, which is totally natural, so it’s nice to see him relaxed and saying, ‘OK, I know I’m here for the rest of the year,’ and we’re hoping for maybe longer, so we’ll see where that goes.”
“The last couple days, there was a lot of things going around, so now I’m still here and I’m just going to focus on playing good and trying to help this team to get to the playoffs,” said Eriksson.
Stempniak and Liles will bring their veteran presence to the lineup, while a young player like Acciari — in his first pro season — will get an opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level.
“We’ve had a lot of young guys play a lot [this season] and they still are, there’s still some young players here,” said Julien. “But there are some veterans here stepping into our lineup to help us down the stretch run.”
“I see it as an opportunity for those guys,” said Julien. “I also see it as an opportunity for our team to be better.”
Stempniak Should “Fit Right In”
Boston marks the ninth team of Stempniak’s 11-season NHL career, but this time around, his new team has significant meaning for him.
“Coming back to a place I call home in the summer and a great organization and a great team, I couldn’t be happier,” Stempniak said on Tuesday morning, after skating for the first time as a Bruin.
“I’ve heard great things from guys that have played here, just about the coaches, about the organization. I’m really excited,” he said. “An Original Six franchise, it’s something special playing for a team like that and a team with a lot of playoff experience. I’m excited for the stretch run.”
The winger spends every summer in Boston and has trained often with Patrice Bergeron. He also attended captain’s practices with the group, before heading to New Jersey’s camp on a PTO — where he was reunited with GM Ray Shero, who traded for Stempniak when he was in Pittsburgh.
Stempniak carved out an impact role for himself right off the bat, playing on the top line with Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique. It turned into one of his best offensive seasons. He was leading the Devils with 41 points, including 16 goals.
“The Devils played a very, very similar style to ours,” said Julien. “They do a lot of things very similar to ours, so I don’t think it’s going to be a big adjustment for him — I think he’s going to fit right in.”
Julien would not divulge where they planned to slot Stempniak into the lineup, only to say that he would be playing on the wing. It has been speculated that the right winger could join Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron’s line.
“I know Marchy’s having an unbelievable year and you can’t say enough about Bergy, just the way he plays, to work out with him at the end of the summer and see the way he prepares,” said Stempniak. “He’s just probably, if not the best, complete player in the NHL, one of the three most complete players. You win with guys like that, so it’s great to be on the same team with him.”
Liles Excited for Playoff Push
Like Stempniak, Liles is clearly excited to join the team for the final stretch, and the chance to play playoff hockey.
Having spent the past two and a half seasons with Carolina, he hasn’t played in the postseason since going up against Boston in 2013, when he was with Toronto.
“It’s a big change for myself,” said Liles. “For me, we played Boston just a few games ago with Carolina and I was really impressed with how they played against us — obviously they beat us pretty well down there.”
“You know, to get traded here and join this team and hopefully make a playoff run is really exciting. Just looking forward to contributing any way I can.”
Liles is a left-shot defenseman who can play both sides of the ice, and will be expected to help with the Bruins’ transition game.
“I’m just coming in trying to play my game, hopefully fit in well and contribute any way I can,” said Liles. “Coming from a team, Carolina, that was on the outside looking in, I’m just really looking forward to being in a playoff race and hopefully getting to compete for a Stanley Cup again.”
Acciari Expected to Make NHL Debut
After putting up 19 points through 42 games in his first pro season with the Providence Bruins, Accairi was awarded the first NHL recall of his career.
“I’m very excited and I’m going to take it one shift at a time, and just help out the team as best as I can,” Acciari said after Tuesday morning’s skate.
“I think the biggest thing is trying not to be nervous out there and just play my game, as a hard-nose forward.”
Acciari was actually in Boston when he got the call, and had to make a quick round trip to Providence to grab his equipment and head back to Boston.
“I like what I saw from training camp,” said Julien. “A real strong, gritty guy, good hockey sense, skates, forechecks hard, will go to the dirty areas and so on, so forth.”
“We’re going to have a real good look at him here. It’s a great opportunity for him, but it’s certainly — coming in at this time of the season, for him to have that opportunity, is pretty special. We’ll have a good look at him tonight, we’ll see how well he does.”
“ I suspect he’ll do well, from what I hear I’ve had nothing but great reports on him. So we’ll see where he is when it comes to playing at this level.”
Acciari had been playing on the right wing with Frank Vatrano and Austin Czarnik in Providence.
“I think I can bring just a heavy body,” he said. “I like to throw my body around, get pucks to the net, be strong in on the puck, and I think, other than that, good D zone presence and anything else I can do to help the team, I’m going to try and do.”
Possible Lineup vs. Calgary 3/1
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Lee Stempniak
Loui Eriksson — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey — Ryan Spooner — Brett Connolly
Jimmy Hayes — Landon Ferraro — Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara — Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles — Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug — Kevan Miller
Projected Scratches: Tyler Randell, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman
Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson