BOSTON — The Bruins on Tuesday held their final practice at Warrior Ice Arena before heading north for Game 1 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Ottawa Senators.
Some news and notes from the session:
— The biggest storyline of practice involved recently signed first-round draft pick Charlie McAvoy, who skated on a defensive pairing with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara one day after inking a three-year, entry-level contract with the team.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy wouldn’t confirm whether McAvoy and Chara will be paired together in Wednesday night’s playoff opener, but he did commend Chara’s ability and willingness to play with D-partners who have little NHL experience.
“We like the young guys with Z,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “Z likes to be the big brother. He relishes that role. … He enjoys tutoring the young guys.”
Chara spent much of the regular season paired with first-year pro Brandon Carlo and previously worked with Dougie Hamilton during the early days of the ex-Bruin’s NHL career.
“We’re appreciative of Z doing that,” Cassidy said. “It makes our job a lot easier. On-ice coaches, they’re the ones out there in the trenches. We can talk to them about video, but to hear it from a fellow player who’s been there and done it — a Norris Trophy winner — goes a lot further than it does from the coaching staff.”
McAvoy, who played his final game for Boston University less than three weeks ago, is expected to make his NHL debut Wednesday with Carlo and Torey Krug both out injured. He admitted to being awestruck while skating alongside Chara, who has played in the NHL since before McAvoy was born.
“It was kind of shocking at first when you’re out there moving the puck with a guy like that,” the 19-year-old said. “He’s just such an amazing player and the leader of this team. He was really good to me (Tuesday), and we talked a lot on the ice. Kind of just little lessons here and there.”
— Centers David Krejci and Dominic Moore both missed practice, but Cassidy, who deemed the absences maintenance days, expects both to play in Game 1. Noel Acciari, who skated for close to 40 minutes before the session began and then left the ice, won’t play Wednesday but could return to action Saturday in Game 2, per Cassidy.
— The Bruins snapped a two-year playoff drought this season, and while several key members of the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team still don the black and gold (Chara, Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, etc.), Boston’s current roster features 14 players who never have played in a postseason game.
That list includes rookie forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, McAvoy’s former BU teammate. The 20-year-old made his NHL debut Saturday against the Washington Capitals, logging eight minutes and 25 seconds in the Bruins’ regular-season finale.
“It’s a lot of new things, but it’s very exciting,” Forsbacka Karlsson said Tuesday. “I’m learning every day, so it’s nice to be here.”
— Marchand will be back in the lineup Wednesday after being suspended for the final two games of the regular season for spearing Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin in the groin.
Cassidy said he hopes referees in the postseason treat Marchand the same way they would any other player, but Boston’s leading goal-scorer knows he’ll have a target on his back.
“It’s tough,” said Marchand, who has been suspended five times in his career. “I put myself in a bad position where I’m under the microscope a little bit more and have to be a lot smarter than what I’ve been in the past. So I definitely have to really dial it in and make sure — we can’t have any little mistakes. But again, that’s the position I put myself in, and I have to work my way out of it.”
Marchand set career highs in all three scoring categories this season, racking up 39 goals (tied for fourth in the NHL) and 46 assists.
— The Bruins have yet to beat the Senators this season, totaling just six goals over the teams’ four meetings. NESN.com’s Mike Cole explained how the B’s can solve Ottawa’s 1-3-1 trap, which aims to slow down games down to a crawl and impede opponents’ progress through the neutral zone.
Thumbnail photo via Marc DiBenedetto/NESN.com