Game Day Preview: Bruins at Devils
Bruce Cassidy is, indeed, riding the hot hand.
After pondering over this decision over the last few days, Cassidy decided to go back to Anton Khudobin for the third straight time. The league-leader in save percentage (.935) and the rest of the Boston Bruins go up against the Metropolitan Division-leading New Jersey Devils in their Thanksgiving Eve tilt in Newark.
With Khudobin in net, the Bruins are 5-0-2. Most recently, Khudobin, who also ranks fourth in goals against average among goalies with seven or more appearances (2.17), backstopped the Black and Gold to their first two-game win streak of the year after solid outings against the Kings and Sharks to close out the three-game California swing.
Tuukka Rask, on the other hand, has yet to find his groove with a 3-7-2 mark to go along with a 2.89 goals against average and .897 save percentage. Being benched for a third straight game is undoubtedly a bitter pill to swallow, but Rask understands where Cassidy is coming from.
“I would have done the same thing if I was the coach,” Rask said during the Bruins’ off day in San Jose a week ago. “The results have been there [for Khudobin]. I haven’t been able to get wins in the past three starts. So it’s understandable.”
The results have been there for Khudobin and the Bruins the last two games. Tonight, without Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, David Backes and Adam McQuaid, they’ll look to accomplish another feat that they haven’t done yet: a win against an Eastern Conference opponent. The young and exciting Devils, led by former Oiler Taylor Hall, top overall pick Nico Hischier and last year’s Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher, will provide a tough out for Khudobin and company before Turkey Day.
Gametime: 7:00 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 8-7-4 (20 points), Devils 12-5-3 (27 points)
Location: Prudential Center
Bruins projected lines
Danton Heinen-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Peter Cehlarik
Ryan Spooner-Riley Nash-Frank Vatrano
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Rob O’Gara-Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller
Devils projected lines
Taylor Hall-Travis Zajac-Jesper Bratt
Adam Henrique-Nico Hischier-Brian Gibbons
Miles Wood-Brian Boyle-Drew Stafford
Pavel Zacha-Blake Coleman-Jimmy Hayes
Andy Greene-Steven Santini
John Moore-Damon Severson
Will Butcher-Ben Lovejoy
– A couple of weeks ago, Bob McKenzie reported that while Don Sweeney is pursuing trade options, the Bruins GM would like to evaluate his team when they get healthy before pulling the trigger on a deal. Tonight, another body returns to the lineup as Ryan Spooner will skate in his first game since the B’s 3-1 loss in Vegas back in mid-October. With just one assist in his first five games, Spooner got off to a rough start to the year – following a solid preseason – before suffering a groin injury. Having signed a one-year deal worth $2.8 million – thus avoiding arbitration – Spooner needs to find ways to produce in even-strength situations. Otherwise, he may be a former Bruin come seasons end, if not before.
– Speaking of former Bruins, both Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford will be front and center on New Jersey’s bottom-six. Surprisingly, especially after his two-year stint in his hometown, Hayes has been the more productive ex-Bruin as he has three goals, three assists, a plus-2 rating and is averaging 13:41 time on ice through 15 games played. Putting that in perspective to his 2016-17 numbers, Hayes has one more point and is averaging four more minutes of ice time per game. Stafford, who gave the Bruins a spark in the top-six as a trade deadline acquisition from Winnipeg last year, has matched last year’s point total during his 18 games in Boston (eight) but has a team-worst minus-9 through 17 games. With Kyle Palmieri out 4-6 weeks, the Devils could use help in the secondary scoring department and hope that the two former B’s can help the cause.