BOSTON -- Center Patrice Bergeron will make his season debut for the Boston Bruins in their home opener against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NESN, MSG+, NHL.TV), after missing a season-opening three-game road trip with a lower-body injury.
"It doesn't matter what night it is, I think anytime Patrice comes back in our lineup it's a big lift," coach Claude Julien said after the morning skate. "He's regarded as one of the best players in the League, so when you go three games without him and you see him coming back, it's a lift to everybody - players, teammates, organization, coaching staff, you name it. Hopefully the fans as well."
The Bruins went 2-1-0 on their road trip without Bergeron, who was injured in practice on Oct. 12.
"It was really hard," Bergeron had said after practice on Wednesday. "A little frustrating at the same time, not being able to go on the first road trip with the guys and kind of battle with them early on."
Bergeron not being in the lineup is a rarity. He had missed a total of 14 games in the past six seasons before missing the first three in 2016-17.
The Bruins are more than happy to welcome him back.
"He's one of the best players in the League," said left wing Brad Marchand, who usually plays with Bergeron. "He's obviously going to help our team a lot, and give us a lot of depth. It's great to have him back for tonight."
The return of Bergeron, who starred for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, fills a number of holes for Boston because he plays in almost every situation.
"You can't replace a guy like that, so it's huge to have him back," center David Krejci said. "He is doing everything right, power play, [penalty kill]. We definitely miss him, especially on power play, but he can do it all. He's an all-around player and it's great to have him back with us."
David Backes filled in for Bergeron between Marchand and David Pastrnak during his absence. They generated plenty of offense; Marchand leads the Bruins with seven points, followed by Pastrnak with six and Backes with three.
But with the return of Bergeron, the Bruins will be able to shuffle players back to where they were intended to be, moving Backes down to right wing with Danton Heinen and Krejci.
"He's a huge hole to fill," Marchand said. "You can't replace a guy like that. He just adds a lot of depth to the team. When you're able to balance out your lines and put Backes with [Krejci] and [Bergeron] with our line, it just adds a lot to our team. It fills that gap that we need on the penalty kill, on even strength. Last minute of games, he's a huge faceoff guy. So, again, you can't replace a guy like that. It definitely adds to our group."