Half a year of PTO stipends and then seven games in the American Hockey League -- along with injuries to Jake DeBrusk, Marcus Johansson, and David Pastrnak -- have finally paid off for veteran winger Lee Stempniak.
Recalled from Providence on an emergency basis, the 36-year-old Stempniak will make his 2019 Bruins debut tonight against the Senators, skating on the right side of a Boston second line with David Krejci and Joakim Nordstrom.
"I feel like I've played pretty well and gotten more comfortable," Stempniak, who totaled two goals and five points in seven gams with the P-Bruins this season, said following Saturday's morning skate in Brighton. "It's something I've worked really hard for, that I take a lot of pride in achieving. Hopefully I play well and help the team win and earn some more ice time.
"Certainly rewarding for the work I've put in and I'm appreciative of the opportunity."
Stempniak is seemingly set up for success tonight, too, as pairing him with a pass-first player like Krejci should allow him to get some shots on net and maximize his impact on tonight's tilt.
So long as he's able to keep up.
This, of course, is Stempniak's second stint with the Bruins. Acquired from the Devils in 2016, Stempniak recorded three goals and 10 points in 19 games down the stretch in what ended as a DNQ season for the B's as the East's ninth seed. Stempniak skated in 37 games with the Hurricanes last season, tallying three goals and nine points.
Tuukka Rask gets the start in the Boston net.
The Senators, meanwhile, come to TD Garden with just one win in their last 10 contests. Ottawa has been a straight-up disastrous this season, but especially so since their massive trade deadline selloff, with a 1-4-1 record that's seen them outscored 26-14 over that stretch.
This will be the season series finale between these teams. The Black and Gold are 3-0-0 against the Sens this season.
Here are the complete expected lines and pairings for the B's...
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - David Krejci - Lee Stempniak
Peter Cehlarik - Charlie Coyle - David Backes
Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - John Moore