Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens game preview

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08: Brad Marchand
MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08: Brad Marchand /

The Boston Bruins officially open up preseason play tonight.  Here’s a look at what’s on tap for today.

NHL hockey is back!  I repeat, NHL HOCKEY IS BACK!  Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the beginning of the 2017-2018 Boston Bruins hockey season (obviously not including Rookie Camp and the Prospect Challenge tournament).

The NHL preseason opened up this past weekend with three games.  On Saturday, the Vancouver Canucks took down the Los Angeles Kings in overtime.  On Sunday, the New York Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in OT, and the Vegas Golden Knights put on a goal-scoring clinic, netting 9 goals and beating up on the Canucks.

Tonight at 7:00 pm, the Bruins will take the ice to open their preseason in Quebec City against their arch-rival Montreal Canadiens.  It seems fitting that the first game of the year would be against the Habs.  The rivalry between the teams, which in my opinion has been lacking over the last few years, had a little kindling added to the fire in February.

For those with short memories, Bruins coach Claude Julien was ousted by the Bruins and re-joined the Canadiens behind the bench.  When asked about this dynamic, Bruce Cassidy, the man who replaced Julien as Bruins head coach, said:

"“Oh, I’ll go over and say hello,” said Cassidy, who joined Julien’s staff as an assistant last season after eight years (five as head coach) with the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence. “We’ll have a chat about training camp, like we did at the draft, but I don’t think this game has much of a story line, other than it’s the first game for both teams evaluating their talent.”"

This preseason game may not feature the Julien-Cassidy matter as a storyline.  However, come March and April when the teams are (hopefully) battling for playoff positioning, that could very well be a topic of interest.

The team you’ll see tonight

It’s still early in the preseason.  The team had a solid performance in rookie camp and the Prospects Challenge tournament.  Some of the younger guys are auditioning for spots on the NHL roster, or for significant playing time in Providence.  When asked about how he was going to handle the preseason, Cassidy stated:

"″(Lineups will) definitely be on the younger side early on,” Cassidy said. “You’re doing a lot of individual evaluation. You’ve got ‘X’ amount of spots, so we’re looking at what players are doing against NHL talent. That talent, throughout the exhibition season, will probably increase.”"

The Bruins camp has been broken into two groups for today, the Game Roster and the Non-Game Roster  The Game Roster players will have a morning skate at Warrior Arena in Boston at 10 am.  The Game Roster features the following players:

Forwards:  Noel Acciari, Kenny Agostino, Matt Beleskey, Anders Bjork, Colby Cave, Jesse Gabrielle, Justin Hickman, Riley Nash, Chris Porter, Tim Schaller, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner, Jack Studnicka

Defensemen:  Chris Breen, Connor Clifton, Tommy Cross, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon, Kevan Miller, Paul Postma

Goaltenders:  Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban

Who you won’t see tonight

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The Non-Game Roster is largely made of the veterans on the team who have already secured their roster spots.  It also features some of the younger guys who we’ll probably see in games coming up in the very near future  The following players will do their own morning skate at Warrior Arena at 11:15 am, but not play tonight:

Forwards:  David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Anton Blidh, Peter Cehlarik, Austin Czarnik, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Ryan Fitzgerald, Colton Hargrove, Jackob Forsbacka Karlsson, David Krejci, Joona Koppanen, Sean Kuraly, Brad Marchand, Cedric Pare, David Pastrnak, Teddy Purcell, Jordan Szwarz, Frank Vatrano

Defensemen:  Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, Taylor Doherty, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Adam McQuaid, Rob O’Gara, Jakub Zboril

Goaltenders:  Anton Khudobin, Tuukka Rask

What to look for

Anders Bjork, Jesse Gabrielle, and Matt Grzekcyk are coming off very impressive performances in the Prospect Challenge in Buffalo.  A lot of people are penciling in Bjork as a top-6 forward for the Bruins already.  He was seen skating a lot with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, a role that would serve him well to start out his career.

Gabrielle has limited AHL experience under his belt, but with the way he played in Buffalo and his WHL career, a good season in Providence could make a case for a call up, or a 2018-2019 roster spot.  Grzelcyk, unfortunately, has a bunch of guys on the blueline ahead of him locked into roster spots.  But I could see him definitely being a call-up in the Bruins get bit by the injury bug like tends to happen in an 82 game season.

Next: Extension in the works for Zdeno Chara

Also, Kenny Agostino is a new arrival that I admittedly haven’t given much credence to this offseason.  Let us not forget that he was the AHL MVP last season with the Chicago Wolves, netting 24 goals and 59 assists.  He clearly has some game and has a one-way deal, so let’s see what the 25-year-old can do.

So, without further ado, let’s get this season going!