By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Bruins will be at full health (or close to it) on the backend for Thursday’s home opener against the Philadelphia Flyers, as Matt Grzelcyk is expected to suit up after leaving Monday’s loss to the Islanders with an undisclosed injury.
“Feeling pretty close to 100 percent,” Grzelcyk, who appeared to injure his shoulder in a tie-up with Jordan Eberle, said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think it could have been a lot worse.”
Getting through Wednesday’s session without any “hiccups,” Grzelcyk was once again on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate, which would continue a hiccup-free path to the 5-foot-9 defender appearing in tonight’s contest.
And in addition to having the comfort of the defense corps they’ve rolled out for the first three games of the season, the Bruins have spent their last two on-ice sessions at TD Garden to get themselves readjusted to their home rink. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said that he talked to Celtics coach Brad Stevens about the challenges of playing at the Garden, which has a sellout streak dating back to 2009, without fans in attendance, and noted that “it’ll be different.”
But back in their home rink for their first home game since Mar. 7, the B’s hope to continue what’s been a franchise-changing batch of homecooking, with the Bruins posting a league-best 90-25-18 record at the Garden since Cassidy took over as the team’s head coach nearly four years ago.
“I think the guys had lots of energy,” Cassidy said after his team’s first practice at TD. “We’ve played well here over the years, so we’re just kind of excited to be back and skate with the big ‘B’ at center ice and we’ll see how that plays out for us.”
Tuukka Rask will get the start in the Boston net after stopping 16-of-17 in a loss to the Islanders on Monday. The 33-year-old Rask, who is on pace to start two games per week according to Cassidy, is 1-1-0 with a .923 save percentage through his first two appearances of the 2021 season, and stopped all 36 shots thrown his way in his only 2019-20 meeting against Philly. Overall, Rask has a 15-2-4 record and .934 save percentage in 21 career starts against the Flyers.
The Flyers will counter with Carter Hart for his first appearance since an 18-of-22 effort led to an early hook in a Monday loss to the Sabres. Hart has a 2-1-0 record and .899 save percentage through three games, and enters this head-to-head with a 4-1-0 record and .910 save percentage in five career meetings against the Bruins.
This will be the first of eight meetings between the Bruins and Flyers in 2021, with a Saturday rematch on deck.
“Good mix of young guys and veteran guys. They have high-end skill and bigger guys. They’re a good hockey team, no real weaknesses,” Cassidy said. “I feel we’re the same way. When we’re on our game, there’s no one area that we’re gonna be susceptible to constant attack, and that’s put them as one of the favorites in the East.”
The Bruins are 4-1-4 against the Flyers since the start of the 2017-18 season.
Here’s the complete lines and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Jack Studnicka
Anders Bjork – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Trent Frederic – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Jeremy Lauzon – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo
Jakub Zboril – Kevan Miller