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The Bruins (1-1-0) are back on American soil after earning a split of their two tilts with the Phoenix Coyotes in Prague last weekend. After a long break this week to get reacclimated, the B’s return to the ice Saturday night in New Jersey to take on Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils (1-3-1).
Time to jump right in to the preview…
– New Jersey will be coming off a tough 3-2 loss at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche Friday evening, in a game that saw the Devils outshoot their opponents, 43-22. Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson stood on his head all night long, making 41 saves in the game to deliver the victory. The loss for New Jersey was already their third defeat at home (0-2-1).
– The story thus far with the Devils has surrounded their battles with injuries and the salary cap. With Kovalchuk’s new gargantuan contract on the books for the next 15 years, it leaves GM Lou Lamoriello little wiggle room. As the team has sustained a handful of tough injuries already, the Devils haven’t had the cap space to call on reinforcements, leaving the team shorthanded before they even drop the puck. The Devils only dressed 15 skaters on Monday night against the Penguins. Since then, they have moved former Bruin Brian Rolston to LTIR (long-term injured reserve) with a hernia, which enables the team to exceed the salary cap by Rolston’s annual salary. With that move, the team has added Adam Mair, and recalled Jacob Josefson, Tim Sestito, and Matt Corrente to fill out the roster.
– I mentioned Rolston’s injury, but that’s only the beginning for New Jersey’s health woes. Defensemen Mark Fraser (broken hand), Bryce Salvador (concussion), and Anton Volchenkov (broken nose, stiff neck) have all been knocked out of action for the Devils.
– Switching to the few healthy Devils that remain, Ilya Kovalchuk is the early points leader in the New Jersey locker room, with a pair of goals and three assists in the team’s five games thus far. Following the Russian winger is Patrik Elias (1G, 3A), followed by a foursome of Devils with three points a piece.
– In goal, when you think New Jersey Devils, you think Martin Brodeur. Brodeur has appeared in all five games so far for the Devils, posting a 3.00GAA and .887 save percentage thus far. Backing up Brodeur is veteran Johan Hedberg.
– In last year’s four meetings between these two teams, the Devils earned victories in three of them. All four games were decided by just one goal.
– Turning our attention now to the hometown team, the B’s hit the ice for just their third game on the young season. Only the Sharks and Coyotes have played as few games as the Bruins have so far, of course due to their European trips to kick off the season.
– Through two games, new Bruins winger Nathan Horton has certainly made his presence known. The former Florida Panther lit the lamp three times for the B’s in Prague’s pair, accounting for more than half of the team’s five goals on the weekend. Rookie Tyler Seguin notched his first NHL goal while across the pond, along with Milan Lucic’s first of the year.
– Czech countryman David Krejci, happy to have the chance to play in front of several family members and friends in Prague, had three assists on the team’s top forward line this past weekend.
– The other highlight of the European trip was the stellar play of Tim Thomas in Sunday’s 3-0 shutout win over the Coyotes. Thomas, pegged as the backup to Tuukka Rask entering the season, made 29 saves on the day to earn his 18th career shutout.
– Two defensemen for the B’s missed some time at practice this week, with Dennis Seidenberg battling flu-like symptoms and Andrew Ference working through issues with a sore left hand. Despite both ailments, both blue liners should be in uniform against the Devils Saturday night.
– Lastly, a look at the forward lines for the B’s. Head coach Claude Julien has worked through several combinations through training camp and the opening weekend, but this week’s practices saw the four lines gaining some consistency and continuity. The team’s top line of Krejci, Horton, and Lucic remained intact, with the second line featuring Patrice Bergeron centering Blake Wheeler and Jordan Caron. Rookie Tyler Seguin centers the third trio, with veteran wingers Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder alongside, while the fourth line is manned by Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, and Brad Marchand. Extra forwards Daniel Paille and Brian McGrattan are also a part of the picture, but are likely to be healthy scratches come game time.