WILMINGTON, Mass. – It seems that there will only be one Bruins player that’s never skated on the Bell Centre ice before the B’s and Montreal Canadiens renew Atlantic Division acquaintances on Thursday night. Bruins third-line right wing Reilly Smith was a rookie with the Dallas Stars last season, but the Western Conference teams never played the East in the lockout-shortended season.
“This is my first time playing there,” said Smith. “It should be pretty exciting. I hear it’s a good place to play with the added rivalry being a part of it. I’ve heard that it’s pretty heated.
“I haven’t asked too many questions about it. I know this rivalry is something that the media makes a big deal out of. We’ll see what it’s like. Most arenas are pretty loud, so I’m not expecting it to be too much different."
Smith also wasn’t in the lineup when the Bruins faced the Canadiens in the preseason opener at the Bell Centre back in September, so things will all be fresh and new for the 22-year-old.
There might also be a little bit of a rude awakening for a youngster who has never experienced that level of energy in a hockey building.
Johnny Boychuk was laughing at the dressing room stall next to Smith as he was being questioned about it, and the veteran defenseman told Smith to “just make sure that you don’t let the crowd start singing in the third period.”
Smith will do his best to help the Bruins win, as he’s done all season long. He's been arguably Boston’s biggest surprise, while ranking third in points with five goals and 12 assists in 27 games.
Depending on what happens Wednesday night when the Canadiens play the New Jersey Devils, the Bruins and Habs could be battling for first place in the Atlantic Division. That’s what Smith will be focusing on what will probably be the most raucous, loud, unfriendly place he’s ever played in while coming up through the NCAA and AHL levels of hockey.
“The biggest thing is sticking to our game plan. If it’s a loud rink and it’s a little rowdy, then we shouldn’t let it affect our game,” said Smith. “It’s pretty much playing for first place right now, so the biggest thing is coming out with the two points. It doesn’t really matter where you’re playing.”
It sounds as if Smith has his head screwed on straight heading into Thursday night, but it will be readily obvious early whether the young player has steely nerves or wobbly legs in his first experience at the Bell Centre.