Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Feb 1, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins forward Trent Frederic (11), defenseman Hampus Lindholm (27) and forward Charlie Coyle (13) celebrate a goal by defenseman Brandon Carlo (25) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The first of four 2023-24 showdowns between the Bruins and Maple Leafs will not only be stuck behind the ESPN+/Hulu paywall, but it will also come with the Bruins at far less than 100 percent.

Up front, the Bruins will remain without both Jakub Lauko and Milan Lucic. Lauko is still dealing with the after effects of taking a skate to the face back in Chicago, while Lucic is still on the long-term injured reserve due to the Derek Forbort shot that banged off his leg and to Morgan Geekie for Geekie’s first goal as a Bruin back in Los Angeles.

And on the backend, the Bruins will be without their top pairing, with Matt Grzelcyk slated to miss at least a few weeks due to an upper-body injury sustained Monday night against the Panthers and with Charlie McAvoy set to serve the first game of his four-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of the Panthers’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Oh, and the Bruins added Derek Forbort to the shelf Thursday morning.

  • Given their losses, particularly on the backend, there’s no denying that this will be the biggest test of the young season for these Bruins. Especially going against a Toronto squad that’s entering this contest averaging over three goals per game and with a power play that ranks as the fifth-best in the league (31.3 percent).

    But the Bruins have found ways to win — and win ugly at times — in all but one contest this year (8-0-1), and the ask may be no different tonight. The Bruins are also riding the high of what was without a doubt their best win of the season this past Monday night at TD Garden, as the team erased a two-goal deficit, killed off a five-minute major, and beat the Panthers in overtime by a 3-2 final.

    The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, will come into play looking to atone for what was an ugly 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on home ice on Halloween night.

    Here are four players to watch for when the sides renew their rivalry Thursday night at TD Garden…

  • Mason Lohrei

    Oct. 3, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Mason Lohrei (6) gets set for a face-off during overtime against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct. 3, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Mason Lohrei (6) gets set for a face-off during overtime against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Give ’em truth serum and the Bruins will almost certainly outright tell you that Mason Lohrei is ahead of schedule they had for him internally. That’s because when the Bruins were force-feeding the 22-year-old some high-intensity minutes in the preseason, they were doing so in an attempt to see if he would sink or swim. And Lohrei didn’t sink. Sure, there were moments where his inexperience or lack of pro poise with the puck came to the table, but overall, Lohrei’s push was strong enough to effectively make him the final cut from B’s camp.

    Tonight is going to require something similar from both the Bruins and Lohrei, with the Black and Gold set to skate without two of their left-side regulars, as previously noted.

    In action for four games this past preseason, Lohrei recorded one goal and two points, and landed four shots on net. Lohrei was also credited with three hits, nine blocked shots, and drew two penalties over his 93-minute run with Boston. And when the Bruins ultimately decided to send him down to Providence to begin his 2023-24, it was because they felt that they needed to load him up on minutes out of the gate. He’s used those AHL minutes to put up four assists through seven games, and is coming off what was his best weekend with the club.

    With McAvoy, Grzelcyk, and Forbort out, there’s a legitimate opportunity for Lohrei to log minutes in all situations, and put forth a 23-minute kind of night against the Maple Leafs.

    Now comes Lohrei taking it and running with it.

  • Matt Poitras

    Oct 30, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Matthew Poitras (51) takes a shot against the Florida Panthers during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 30, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Matthew Poitras (51) takes a shot against the Florida Panthers during the first period at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

  • The kid is stickin’ around.

    A nine-game standout, the Bruins informed Matt Poitras earlier this week that he is not returning to OHL Guelph and that he’s going to remain with the Bruins for the time being. Poitras, who has arguably been the B’s best center out of the gate this season, has certainly earned the extended stay. But the work is just beginning, really, as Poitras will have to adapt to life as a full-time NHLer and is no longer a secret weapon on the roster.

    Teams are aware of him, and have taken note, with every opponent taking a more ‘physical’ approach when it comes to limiting the 5-foot-11, 180-pound center’s impact on the game. But Poitras has shown a definite willingness to compete on that front, which has not gone unnoticed.

    “I think the number one reason why he’s going to play a 10th game is because of that,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said of the first-year pro’s compete. “You know, we see the hockey IQ, we see the skill, we see the vision. But if you don’t compete, don’t have natural second or third effort, especially at a young age, it’s hard to stay in this league. And that quality, that has been his best quality and why we think he’s earned this.”

    An Ontario-born talent, Poitras also grew up a fan of the Maple Leafs, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can pull out a little something extra against his hometown club and with his friends and family watching back home.

  • Hampus Lindholm

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 11: Hampus Lindholm #27 of the Boston Bruins defends Taylor Raddysh #11 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period of the Bruins home opener at TD Garden on October 11, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 11: Hampus Lindholm #27 of the Boston Bruins defends Taylor Raddysh #11 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period of the Bruins home opener at TD Garden. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • The Bruins are going to lean on Hampus Lindholm in this one, and in a major way.

    With Forbort out, Lindholm will be the B’s go-to left-side penalty killer. And we already know about the Leafs’ prowess on the man advantage And with McAvoy out, there’s a chance that Lindholm is quarterbacking the top power-play unit, much like he did last year when McAvoy had a delayed start to his 2022-23 season. Oh, and the Bruins are going to lean on Lindholm for some defensive-zone minutes against Toronto’s top guns.

    Add it all up and, yes, that is one massive night on deck for the 6-foot-4 Lindholm.

    It may also be what he needs to get going here. For as strong as Lindholm has been in his own end (and I think he’s had more than a few nights that have gone under the radar on that front), the Swedish-born defenseman is still looking for his first goal and his first point of the season.

  • Tyler Bertuzzi

    Oct 16, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Tyler Bertuzzi (59) battles for the puck with Chicago Blackhawks left wing Lukas Reichel (27) during the third period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 16, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Tyler Bertuzzi (59) battles for the puck with Chicago Blackhawks left wing Lukas Reichel (27) during the third period at Scotiabank Arena. (Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Thursday night will also come with the B’s first look at Tyler Bertuzzi since Bertuzzi and the Bruins were unable to come to terms on a contract to keep the 2023 deadline addition in Boston.

    The Bruins wanted to keep Bertuzzi in town, but between their own cap situation and what turned out to be a gridlocked trade market, the Bruins simply couldn’t justify taking multiple trade losses to keep one player. And there was the fact that Bertuzzi’s market seemed to be much hotter than anything the Bruins could’ve afford in the days leading up to the start of free agency (and Bertuzzi’s camp was shooting for the moon on that front).

    So it was off to Toronto, where Bertuzzi signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract that was never on the table during talks between the B’s and Bertuzzi.

    And through nine games, the lefty-shooting wing is still looking to find his footing with his new club. He’s scored just two goals, has recorded just one assist, and has taken six minor penalties. Not exactly the start that many projected given Toronto’s top-six talent and Bertuzzi’s strong finish with the Bruins.

    Bertuzzi comes into this game with three goals and 12 points in 14 career meetings with the Bruins.

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

*
*
By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.