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China Games

Bruins changing on fly at China Games

Have one practice to evaluate young players before preseason opener vs. Flames

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

SHENZHEN, China -- For forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and goaltender Tuukka Rask, all established stars with the Boston Bruins, Thursday was a blip in their training camp schedules.

With the Bruins and Calgary Flames having their equipment held at customs at Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport, the teams canceled practices at Universiade Sports Center. Instead players worked out in the hotel gyms and checked out the city. It was a chance for bonding and furthering burgeoning relationships with new teammates.

But for the younger Bruins players hoping to make an impression, the missed practice was a missed opportunity.

 

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"It's not going to hurt Brad Marchand," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Thursday. "He's going to enjoy his time here and he's on the team and he's going to play a big role. But for the other guys it does [matter]. And for us.

"When you ask me about being frustrated, it's not the delay. It's just you lose a day of your eyes on these players when you have a limited viewing as it is. But it makes tomorrow and the next day that much more important."

In coming to the 2018 O.R.G. NHL China Games, the Bruins brought several younger players who will challenge for open NHL positions, like a top-six right wing spot and the third-line center job. To make those evaluations the coaches and management staff needs to see forwards Ryan Donato, 22; Trent Frederic, 20; Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, 21; Jack Studnicka, 19, on the ice. Because of the equipment situation they didn't get to do that Thursday.

That leaves the Bruins with one practice, at 12:30 p.m. CST (China Standard Time) on Friday, ahead of the first of two preseason games, starting at Universiade Sports Center on Saturday (2:30 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN), followed by a game at Cadillac Arena in Beijing on Wednesday (7:30 a.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).

Video: Philip Pritchard on the Cup's inaugural trip to China

Cassidy said the team will alter its plans for practice Friday, going on the ice for a longer time, adjusting the drills and dropping some that don't fit. They will make it work, but are regretting a day spent off the ice, with the players taking shifts in the hotel gym to get the blood flowing and using their time to see a bit of the city.

"We would have probably just tried to establish some of our basics, getting the pace up for some of our younger guys that haven't been through it," Cassidy said. "Start teaching points. And then tomorrow we could have worked in a little more special teams, at least go over them going into a game, especially with a lot of new faces trying out here. So now we're going to have to merge all of that into one practice."

It's not optimal for any of them, as the veterans must figure out ways to get their bodies in order, to get back to the kind of routine that most of them prize. Forward David Backes called it "uncharted territory physically," given that he hasn't skated since Monday.

But he knows who most was affected by the equipment delay.

"While I'll find a way, you start to feel bad a little bit for some of the younger kids that are trying to earn spots and battle for spots with the unorthodox schedule, the lack of preparation and time together practicing … and having to jump into a game," Backes said. "I think the saving grace is Calgary, the team we're playing, is in the same position."

Backes, like other Bruins players, got a chance to walk around the area in the morning while waiting for news on the equipment, trying to "soak in some of the culture," while also getting a few stares from the locals.

That chance to explore, plus preparation for the season, stand as the primary objectives for the Bruins during their time in China. But that's not all they're attempting. And with their options limited Thursday, the players could focus on another important aspect of the experience.

"The third thing we're trying to do here is get closer as a group," Backes said. "Some of these guys are going to be with the big club right away. Probably a lot of these guys are going to get a look in the next year or two, at least as a call-up. So growing that relationship and getting to know each other so you can have that connection on the ice whenever that time comes, we're a little bit ahead of the game."

It's something that could help them reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season.

"With the amount of young guys that we have here, having the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit better and build some relationships with the new guys, it'll be good for us," Marchand said. "That goes a long way, especially with the amount of time we're going to be here and having a lot of new bodies. It'll be great to build relationships early and build on it from there."

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