BOSTON - Now slotting in at second line center for the Boston Bruins' rivalry tilt against the Montreal Canadiens - Jack Studnicka.
Studnicka, who will make his NHL debut at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night, has been called upon with Patrice Bergeron still in Boston nursing a lower-body injury.
"I think we're living in the moment, today," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "He's here. We expect him to go out and play his game, he's going to have some nerves like every other guy that's his first NHL game that happens to be at the [Bell Center].
"But, you know, a big rivalry game that he's aware of…that'll be the butterflies for him early on and hopefully he gets through it quickly and just plays his game.
The 20-year-old will have a big contingent of family member in the building for his debut.
"I'm excited," said Studnicka. "It's obviously a rivalry that has gone on for some years now and looking forward to the game."
Studnicka has earned the opportunity with his strong play in the AHL.
"He's been real consistent down in Providence," said Cassidy. "He found his offensive touch, been killing penalties. Seems like he's a guy that's played in all situations.
After making a positive impression in training camp, the Bruins Brass wanted to see how Studnicka fared against the physical competition in professional hockey.
"The thing with Jack is, when he left here, we wanted him to mature physically," said Cassidy. "I think he knows the game, mentally-strong kid, it was just the physical part of it. But if you're the best player down there and we need a call up, we always try to reward ninety-five percent of the time the best player, whoever's being recommended as long as it's the right fit for us. And it is, so in he goes.
"Scoring goals, killing penalties, like I said. Full 200-foot game. Assertive on pucks, second effort on pucks, a lot of what we saw before, he was just obviously not as productive because it's the National Hockey League, versus the American Hockey League, even in the preseason. But, seems to have found his stride offensively so hopefully he's coming at the right time in terms of being confident to be able to make his plays."
The 171-pound center's ability to deal with the physical play has continued to be a focus throughout his season.
"Physically getting stronger, it's my first full pro year," said Studnicka. "I went down there, learned how I can get by being a lighter frame. I think I did that and luckily, I got the call."
Studnicka has scored a goal in five consecutive games for the Providence Bruins, and leads the team in scoring, with nine goals and nine assists for 18 points in 21 games. Against Montreal, Studnicka will get an opportunity in the top-six.
"He's going to start with [Charlie] Coyle on the right and [Jake] DeBrusk on the left," said Cassidy. "It allows him to have Charlie who can help with draws if need be, a guy that's played center down low so if they have to switch, if there's any issues there.
"I think Jack can handle these things, but that's the reason behind moving Charlie. He'll play the power play with Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] out, you know, we've moved Coyle up, so he goes into the bumper there and see how it plays out."
Coyle, known for his strength on the puck, is player that Studnicka has watched closely.
"He's a big, rangy guy who can protect the puck down low," Studnicka said of Coyle. "That is something that I've really keyed on and tried to work on. I've watched him do it for the start of the year and looking forward to gel with him tonight."
Cassidy also believes Coyle's presence could provide more room for Studnicka to operate.
"It means he doesn't have to battle bigger men, and that was why he got sent down a little bit at first," said Cassidy. "The physical part of the game is, he's got plenty of courage, plenty of work ethic, will, he's just not as strong yet as what he needs to be if he's going to be a puck possession guy. So Charlie should help him a lot with that but again, we'll see. I haven't seen him now in what, six weeks or so? He's grown his game and sometimes that's what it takes, is playing against men for a while. You learn to do a few things differently and sometimes it translates quickly, we've seen that with different players. Sometimes it'll take a while."
Montreal enters Tuesday's tilt having lost their past four games, with the most recent on Saturday against the New York Rangers.
"Good depth team," said defenseman Torey Krug. "Lot of speed up front. They forecheck very well and they have some guys that defend hard on the back end. It's a tough test for us and obviously it's fun to play in this building, so we'll try to enjoy it."
The last time the B's faced off with Montreal, the Canadiens claimed a tightly contested 5-4 game. The longtime Bruins rivals are lead offensively by Tomas Tatar (7-13=20) and captain Shea Weber (7-11=18).
Marchand - Krejci - Pastrnak
DeBrusk - Studnicka - Coyle
Bjork - Kuraly - Heinen
Nordstrom - Lindholm - Wagner
Chara - McAvoy
Krug - Carlo
Grzelcyk - Clifton