BOSTON - Jack Studnicka's smile has been altered for quite some time.
The 20-year-old center has been missing his two front teeth since they were knocked loose last season while playing in the Ontario Hockey League. And it was not the first time.
As such, when Studnicka was asked during July's Development Camp when he would get them fixed, the 2017 second-round pick said he was "going to ride out," resigned to the fact that it was likely to happen again down the road.
That time came on Wednesday night at TD Garden during the Bruins' 2-0 preseason victory over the New Jersey Devils.
"I think you guys [the media] have asked me a couple times why I don't get them fixed, and that's why," Studnicka said with his signature grin. "This is probably the fourth time it's happened."
This time around, however, Studnicka was - sort of - rewarded for his pain.
Late in the first period, the Ontario native was creeping toward the back door in an attempt to tap home a cross-ice feed from Paul Carey, when New Jersey goalie McKenzie Blackwood deflected the pass attempt up into Studnicka's face.
The puck banked off of his mouth and into the net to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 6:34 remaining in the first period.
"That's got to be the worst celebration I've had. Spitting teeth everywhere," said Studnicka, who admitted that he didn't realize the puck went into the net until he reached center ice. "I didn't see it at all. Honestly, I thought it was coming to my stick."
Video: NJD@BOS: Studnicka finds twine with redirection
Studnicka immediately headed down the tunnel and was greeted by Bruins team dentist, Dr. Edwin Riley, who took care of the initial repairs, which included stitches inside and outside of his mouth. He missed the remainder of the first period, before returning several minutes into the second.
"I could kind of feel the teeth around in my mouth…it hurts, but it didn't hurt that much out there with the adrenaline going," said Studnicka, who won four of five faceoffs and posted a plus-2 rating in 8:21 of ice time.
Despite the limited minutes because of the injury, Studnicka believes his performance against the Devils was his best through three preseason contests.
"I think I've got better as every game went on," said Studnicka, who also scored late in the preseason opener against the Devils last week to force overtime. "I think when I was on the ice and playing, I thought that I was contributing better than I have in the previous preseason games."
With his first professional season on the horizon, Studnicka is looking forward to the challenge, whether that comes in Providence or Boston.
"I think I put my best foot forward so far," he said. "I got a lot more to show still, but it's one of the deepest rosters in the NHL. So, if I do go down to Providence, I guess I'm a 20-year-old kid playing pro hockey, I'm not going to hang my head."
Video: Jack Studnicka Talks to Media
David Backes continued his strong play during the preseason with a nifty backhanded snipe from the slot just 1:22 into the third period, extending Boston's lead to 2-0. The 35-year-old also landed a game-high five shots on goal in 17:06 of ice time.
"Personally, I've been satisfied so far [in camp]," said Backes, who also had two assists in Boston's win over the Flyers on Monday. "That being said, it's not over. Take tonight for what it's worth and we're back to work tomorrow and continue to work my butt off and that's not going to end for the rest of my career as long as that lasts."
Backes clicked well with linemates Anders Bjork (four SOG) and Par Lindholm - both assisted on his third-period tally - with the trio putting forth a strong all-around effort as they look to solidify spots on Boston's Opening Night roster.
"That line was excellent," said Cassidy. "Those guys are all trying to - obviously, they know time's running out. They were told time was running out, if we're going to play more of our lineup Saturday. I'm glad they took a good step forward."
Video: NJD@BOS: Backes lifts sweet backhander into the net
Jaro Shuts Door
Jaroslav Halak was strong between the pipes once again for the Bruins, stopping all 29 shots he faced to conclude his preseason workload, which also saw him play two periods in Philadelphia last week.
"Outstanding. I thought he was crisp, played the puck well. Would've loved to have seen him score; that would be interesting," said Cassidy, referring to Halak firing a clearing attempt toward the Devils' empty net late in the third.
"But just how smart a play that actually is to get it out on a 6-on-4 situation like that - he's just focused and dialed in. I didn't see much in his game that looked off to me. Rebound control was excellent. He was square. He looks like he's ready to go."
Video: Halak Speaks with Media
Cassidy confirmed after the win that the Bruins will make significant cuts on Thursday to get down to one practice group ahead of the exhibition finale on Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Blackhawks. Boston's bench boss also said the Bruins will take a day away from the rink on Thursday to regroup.
"We'll get down to one group, for sure," said Cassidy. "Friday will be pretty much the guys that will play Saturday, maybe a few extras in case [Joakim] Nordstrom and [David] Krejci aren't ready to go."
Video: Bruce Cassidy Talks to Media