Five games to circle on Bruins regular season schedule

Five games to circle on Bruins regular season schedule
June 23, 2014, 10:00 am
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With the NHL opting to release their entire regular season schedule over the weekend, weeks earlier than they normally have in the past, there’s plenty of time to dissect the schedule of the Boston Bruins. They’ll have a challenging December that starts with a tough road trip in California, and play 15 games in only 26 days during a ridiculously busy month of March.

Here are the five games to circle on the calendar for the Boston Bruins at the outset of the offseason prior to the NHL Draft or free agency:

Thursday Oct. 16 at the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m.): The Bruins get their first crack at the rival Habs a little more than a week into the NHL regular season, and perhaps Milan Lucic gets a chance to act on his handshake line promises to Montreal villains Alexei Emelin and Dale Weise. Regular season meetings between Boston and Montreal are always a cause for added dramatics, but that’s doubly so when the Canadiens ended the B’s playoff run after only two rounds. Given the obvious frustration level from the Bruins and the Canadiens’ accusations that Boston didn’t “respect” them during the seven-game series, an extra dollop of nastiness should be expected out of the hard feelings. There will also be some young Bruins with a few things to prove after some of them looked thoroughly intimidated in the last couple of road playoff games at the Bell Centre last month.

Friday, Nov. 21 at the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m.): Nathan Horton missed all of the regular season meetings between the Bruins and Blue Jackets in 2013-14 after leaving Boston for Columbus in free agency, so this road tilt in Ohio will be Horton’s first game against his former teammates. It remains to be seen whether Jarome Iginla returns to once again man Horton’s old right wing spot with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, but one would expect the Columbus winger will be bringing some physical intensity to the proceedings. Doing that consistently was always a challenge for Horton in Boston, but he definitely knows how to pick his spots. One will be able to tell quickly how high the level of hard feelings remain for the normally quiet, slightly shy Horton when conversation moves to his experience with the Bruins, and he takes the ice with a playoff caliber Blue Jackets team against his former Cup-winning teammates.

Tuesday, Dec. 2 at the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 p.m.): The Bruins visit the Stanley Cup champs at the Staples Center, and perhaps the Black and Gold get a peek at what a Cup Final appearance might have looked like. Los Angeles will certainly be a regular season challenge with the usual talented suspects: Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Game 7 hero Justin Williams and Jeff Carter. Given some of the similarities between Boston and Los Angeles, the games are usually low-scoring, physical affairs at both ends of the ice. The road tilt will also mark the second game in a four-game, weeklong trip to the West Coast that will pit the Bruins up against Western Conference elite in the Ducks, Kings and Sharks along with a competitive Phoenix Coyotes club. At the outset of the schedule December looks like one of the most difficult months of the season for Julien and Co., and this will be one of the biggest tests.  

Tuesday, January 20 at the Dallas Stars: Another year, and another winter visit to Dallas and Tyler Seguin after the talented youngster put together an explosive first season in a place that can only be described as the NHL South. Next season will be the last year of a contract Rich Peverley originally signed with the Bruins, and the shifty, versatile forward hopes he’ll be able to continue his NHL career after the heart scare against Columbus that ended his season. Normally the Seguin trade would be the focal point of any game between the Stars and Bruins, as would another return to Big D for Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith. But the health and well-being – and hopeful speedy return – of Peverley will be the big concern for longtime Bruins players traveling to the Lone Star State for this one.  

Tuesday, Feb. 24 vs. the Vancouver Canucks: The last meeting between the Canucks and the Bruins truly ripped open some Cup Final scabs while Brad Marchand was busy kissing imaginary rings, and pantomiming the Stanley Cup lift in front of the Vancouver bench last season. Certainly some of it was overzealous fun from an entertaining sort in Marchand, who did enough to get warned by his coach and general manager following the Vancouver game. But Marchand also chose poorly in talking smack to Ryan Kesler and the hated Canucks when his own team was down by multiple goals in the third period. It will be interesting to see if players like Alex Edler and Kesler are still with Canucks once new GM Jim Benning begins creating a more difficult team to play against in Vancouver. That could slightly change the tenor of the game, and give the Bruins a whole different experience this time around in Vancouver. The bottom line to all of this: some of the names have changed, but these are still two very different hockey clubs with individual players that hate each other. That always makes for good hockey cinema.