Bruins easing Spooner into first night festivities

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Bruins easing Spooner into first night festivities

MONTREAL With Brad Marchand out for Wednesday night's game against the Canadiens -- the kind of grudge match that the resident pest usually lives for -- the door has been opened for rookie Ryan Spooner to make his NHL debut.

It wont be as a strict replacement for Marchand, however. The 21-year-old center will center a fourth line with 28-year-old rookie Jamie Tardif and 23-year-old enforcer Lane MacDermid as his two wings. Gregory Campbell, the normal fourth-line center, will slide into a left-wing position alongside Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin.

Spooner said he doesnt feel very comfortable playing wing, and that might have factored into the final decision-making for position and line combinations. But more likely, coach Claude Julien values the Bergeron line as much for their defensive contributions as he does for their offense, and Campbell is a better fit to play bigger minutes in an expanded role.

Spooner, meanwhile, is readying for his first game after a whirlwind few days that saw him called up to Boston two days ago. The 2010 second-round pick is a deft skill player who wouldnt normally be a natural fit on the fourth line, but the obvious explanation is that Julien might be picking his spots with an inexperienced line in a big game.

Spooner played at the Bell Centre against the Canadiens in an exhibition game two years ago. It wasnt a regular-season battle for first place in the Northeast Division, as Wednesday night will be, but at least it broke the ice for him.

I played a preseason game here and it was pretty nuts, said Spooner, who definitely looked a little nervous amidst all the hustle and bustle around him in the visitors dressing room at the Bell Centre on a rivalry game day. The guys have all said that its a great place to play. Im pretty nervous right now, but to play in this rink for my first game is going to be good. Its a couple of Original Six teams that have played each other a lot. Its a great rivalry.

Spooner, Dougie Hamilton, Lane MacDermid, Jamie Tardif and Chris Bourque will all be getting their first taste of the BruinsCanadiens rivalry, and some, like Hamilton and Bourque, will be expected to play meaningful roles. Montreal wonder-boy rookies Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher will also both be taking in the rivalry for the first time.

Julien - who's served as head coach of both franchises -- has a feeling for how it'll play out.

All I can say is that theyll figure it out quickly enough if they dont know whats going to happen," he said.

We have a guy in Hamilton thats been pretty calm through everything and he was in his hometown last weekend when the B's played in Toronto and that didnt seem to bother him. He should be able to handle that well. Weve got a couple of call-ups that are excited to play, and hopefully they turn that excitement into a positive situation.

Theres little Spooner can do to prepare for hopping on the NHL ice for the first time and feeling the electrical current of life rippling through the Bell Centre crowd.

But hell have a new personal best for jumbo-sized butterflies in his stomach once things get moving between the Habs and the Bruins in his first NHL game.

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While the sequence of events over the past couple of days could understandably lead one to wonder who will start between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night vs. Nashville, interim coach Bruce Cassidy tried to quell any hint of a goalie controversy.

The vote of confidence was certainly needed after Anton Khudobin’s fifth consecutive win halted the B's four-game losing streak with a huge 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night in the wake of Rask’s absence while tending to a short-term lower body issue.  

“[Rask] had a good practice today. I spoke with him. We’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and we’ll make our decision. He’s our No. 1 goalie, so there’s no way we can skirt our way around that issue. He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important. When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision,” said Cassidy. “He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year...and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.

“That’s why we have two goaltender, and [Anton Khudobin] has really stepped up in that last stretch and done what’s asked of him. He’s fixed that area of our game. It’s nice to have a guy that’s your No. 2 that can win you hockey games and play well. It’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you. But Tuukka is our No. 1. But Tuukka is our No. 1. He’s our guy.”

Rask declared himself fit to play after going through a full Monday practice with no issues, but said he’s still waiting to hear the final word on whether he’ll play on Tuesday night vs. the Predators. The Bruins franchise goalie also said he isn’t worried about any recurrence of the lower body injury that “popped up” in the Tampa Bay loss Thursday night, which really doesn’t bring any clarity to the entire situation.

“It was a good day back on the ice. I feel good. We’ll see what the decision is [for the Nashville game], but I feel good today,” said Rask, who is 8-8 with a .892 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average since the All-Star break, compared to Khudobin’s 2-0-0 with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. “You need to put the best lineup out as possible, and I wasn’t in any shape to play. So, there are no easy decisions this time of year, but I’ve played a lot of hockey and injuries happen. We talked to the training staff and managers and came to a decision that [Khudobin] was going to play the game, and that’s it.

“It’s obviously tough from a personal standpoint, but it’s never about one guy or two guys. It’s a team game and I feel confident that we’re going to get the job done as long as we play the way we did. It was great to see.”

Clearly, it looks like Rask is going to play vs. Nashville and that’s the safe, easy decision when it comes to a No. 1 goalie getting paid $7 million a season and perhaps it all works out with a fired up Finnish netminder after sitting out Saturday night. But nobody is going to be faulted if they wonder what’s going to wrong with Rask ahead of the next gigantic game Boston will have to play with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line. 

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins returned to work on Monday after a big win over the weekend, but were one man down by the end of practice at Warrior Ice Arena. David Krejci exited the ice early on Monday and coach Bruce Cassidy said that the playmaking center is battling a bit of an upper body issue.

That was the reason for his abbreviated practice appearance ahead of the game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

“He’s got a bit of an upper body issue, he’s got a little discomfort,” said Cassidy of Krejci, who has one point and a minus-4 rating over his past four games. “He got treated and I believe he’ll be fine tomorrow. I don’t think it’s anything major, but I can’t speculate [on it]. But that’s the issue.”

There was no play that sticks out from the Saturday night win over the Islanders were Krejci might have hurt himself, but the team’s hope is obviously that it’s something the 30-year-old can keep playing through.

With Krejci having left the ice, Ryan Spooner bumped up to the second line with the following line combos and D-pairings finishing out an hour-long practice:

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Backes

Stafford-Spooner-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Nash-Hayes

Beleskey-Moore-Acciari

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

C. Miller-K. Miller

 
Rask