At the start of the season, the Bruins’ first five games on paper appeared to be a good opportunity to get off to a good start. Only one of those teams, the Nashville Predators, appeared in the playoffs a year ago, while two other squads – the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche – finished at the bottom and one wasn’t even an NHL team last October.
The Bruins only managed a 2-3 mark in those first five games with a pair of losses to the Avs in the home and home and a setback against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. As they deal with injuries, the Bruins still have a friendly schedule ahead of them.
Tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks marks the first of a four-game homestand for the Black and Gold. Of their three following opponents, only the Kings (5-0-1) have a winning record in the early going, while the Sharks are the only team on the docket that appeared in the postseason last year. The struggling Buffalo Sabres come to town this Saturday before the Bruins welcome the two aforementioned California squads to Causeway Street next week.
Still, the Bruins will need to overcome their ongoing injury issues. Tuukka Rask, who left Wednesday’s practice after a nasty collision with Anders Bjork, will miss tonight’s contest and will be reevaluated tomorrow. Fellow teammate Ryan Spooner will miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a groin injury in Vegas.
Goaltender Zane McIntyre will make the trip to Providence as he fills the role of backup to Anton Khudobin, while Kenny Agostino will make his season debut.
There’s potentially some good news on the injury front, however. David Backes (diverticulitis) will likely make his debut while Patrice Bergeron (lower-body) is a game-time decision. Both vets missed the B’s first five contests. Adam McQuaid, who also exited the B’s 3-1 loss to the Golden Knights with a lower-body injury, is also likely.
At this point, Bruce Cassidy and company can use all the help they can get; even against a Canucks squad – who will be without former Bruin Loui Eriksson – that is in rebuilding mode.
Gametime: 7:00 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 2-3-0 (4 points), Canucks 2-2-1 (5 points)
Location: TD Garden
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Anders Bjork
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Kenny Agostino-Sean Kuraly-David Backes
Tim Schaller-Riley Nash-Frank Vatrano
Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller-Brandon Carlo
Canucks projected lines
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Markus Granlund
Sven Baertschi-Alex Burmistrov-Brock Boeser
Sam Gagner-Bo Horvat-Thomas Vanek
Derek Dorsett-Brandon Sutter-Jake Virtanen
Michael Del Zotto-Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton-Erik Gudbranson
Derrick Pouliot-Troy Stecher
– How much time Rask misses is anyone’s guess, but in the short-term, the Bruins know they have a capable backup in Khudobin. His second half bounce back last year – where he won six of his last seven starts – began against this same Canucks team back in February. Khudobin is quite successful in his three career appearances against Vancouver – two of them starts – going 2-0-0 with a .956 save percentage and 1.29 goals against average. With momentum on his side following his solid performance in his first start of 2017-18 against Arizona, the Bruins would like nothing more than for Khudobin to help them get back on track in the third week of the season.
– With Spooner out until at least mid-November, Agostino comes aboard from Providence as the next man up. Agostino has had quite the success at the AHL level and is coming off an 83-point season a year ago. Though he was sent to Providence after a solid camp, the former Yale standout picked up right where he left off with seven points in three games. With just 17 NHL games under his belt during his first three years in the Blues and Flames organizations, Agostino will get his first opportunity to impress Cassidy, GM Don Sweeney and the rest of the Boston brass as he will get bottom-six minutes and a spot on the top power play unit filling Spooner’s void on the half-wall.