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.