The Bruins are set to embark on their first home game at TD Garden since, well, you know…
Okay, they aren’t getting ready for another Stanley Cup Final tilt. But an important week lies ahead for Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins’ brass.
Very few opening night roster spots remain up for grabs as some of the veterans slowly make their way back for their preseason debuts. The blue-line and goaltending are set barring any injuries or other developments between now and next Thursday in Dallas.
Some Bruins, like Karson Kuhlman and Anders Bjork, took a big step forward during the early part of training camp. Others, like Jack Studnicka, continue to impress, but may find themselves starting the season in Providence given certain needs.
We’ll have a final opening night lineup projection after the Bruins’ conclude their six-game preseason slate on Saturday. But here’s our first stab of how we think the lineup will look in Game 1 of 82.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
The best trio in hockey will stay intact when they go up against Tyler Seguin and company. We’ll save the debate on moving Pastrnak to the second line when it’s warranted.
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Karson Kuhlman
The revolving door at right-wing on the second line lingered into training camp. Karson Kuhlman, who gave that line a spark at times during last year’s postseason run, earned high praise from Cassidy throughout camp. Kuhlman’s energy and aggressive puck pursuit compliment Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci well. He deserves to open the season with the second line duo as Cassidy hopes to finally shut that second line door for good.
Anders Bjork-Charlie Coyle-Danton Heinen
Studnicka rose up the prospect rankings with his stellar junior hockey career. He’ll be wearing the Spoked B at some point this season, but not to start.
Unlike early projections pegging Coyle as a winger, Cassidy will keep the Weymouth native at center. The former Boston University standout provided a much-needed spark centering the third line during last year’s postseason run. Danton Heinen returns as one of Coyle’s wingers, and we’ll peg Anders Bjork at the other wing as the former Notre Dame standout showcased flashes of solid play during the first week of camp.
Brett Ritchie-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner
Noel Acciari’s departure to South Florida opened up a fourth-line spot. Joakim Nordstrom returned to camp last week after sustaining a fractured foot during Boston’s playoff run. The Swede will likely skate with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner when he’s in the lineup.
For now, we give the spot to newcomer Brett Ritchie. The versatile 6-foot-3 power forward provides added muscle that the Bruins could’ve used against the Blues. Ritchie skated in the middle of the lineup last week and will slot in next to Krejci and DeBrusk during Monday’s preseason tilt with the Flyers.
Nordstrom’s eventual return could bump Ritchie to the third line. But we’ll peg him over David Backes and fellow newcomer Par Lindholm on Boston’s energy line and give Coyle a skilled forward in Bjork for the time being.
Kevan Miller and John Moore will likely go on IR to start the season. Urho Vaakaninen, Jeremy Lauzon, Axel Andersson and Cooper Zech took encouraging steps forward in their development(s).
But really, this was Connor Clifton’s spot to lose after coming under the radar last season. His fearless pursuit of the puck and the body compliments Matt Grzelcyk’s up-tempo style of play. Another dosage of ‘Cliffy hockey’ should suit the Bruins well to start the 2018-19 season.
Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak return as one of the NHL’s best goaltending duos. Do we really have to go any further with this one?
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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