BOSTON — The Bruins host Toronto for the first time this season on Thursday night. That means the return of Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin‘s first showdown with his hometown club, which also happens to be the team that traded away the pick Boston used to select him in June.
But this one is special to a couple lesser-known players as well. For Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, the Maple Leafs have played a major role in his young NHL career.
He made his NHL debut last year in Toronto on Dec. 19, and Thursday he’s slated to play his first game of the season against the Leafs. It will be an emotional night for McQuaid, but he hopes the 19 games he played last year, plus another nine in the playoffs, will help him handle the excitement and nervousness of returning to the lineup.
“I think it will help,” said McQuaid. “I’m sure I’ll still be a little nervous when the puck drops, but I’ve got a little bit of experience, so I think that will help me.
“I’ve got to try and channel my emotions,” added McQuaid. “I don’t want to be running around. If I can just play my game and try to be as relaxed as I can. I’m sure there will be some nerves at the start, but just get my feet wet and hopefully get more comfortable as the games goes on.”
McQuaid, who will be playing for the injured Johnny Boychuk, knows it won’t be easy stepping back into the lineup after not playing a game since the preseason, but he’s done his best to stay ready with extra work in practice.
“It’s a mental battle,” said McQuaid. “When you’re sitting for long periods of time, you’ve got to make sure you’re sharp and stay in the game. When you get out there you have to make sure you make the most of it and be prepared to do your job.”
On the other side of the ice, Toronto forward Luca Caputi will be making a similar adjustment against a familiar foe. He was called up to replace injured forward Colby Armstrong and expects to make his season debut on Thursday against the Bruins after playing his first game for Toronto against Boston last March following a trade from Pittsburgh.
Other than McQuiad replacing Boychuk, who is out for four weeks with a fracture in his left forearm, the Bruins should stick with the same lineup they’ve had for the past five games. Forwards Daniel Paille and Brian McGrattan stayed on the ice for some extra work after the morning skate, indicating they are likely to be healthy scratches once again.
Goalie Tim Thomas was the first netminder off the ice in the morning, usually a sign that he will be the starter in net.
For Toronto, Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get the call in goal. The Leafs are dealing with several injuries of their own. In addition to Armstrong, who is out 4-6 weeks after needing finger surgery, former Bruins prospect Kris Versteeg is a game-time decision with a sore back.
If Versteeg can’t go, John Mitchell will take his spot on the second line. Otherwise, Mitchell will be a healthy scratch along with defenseman Carl Gunnarsson.
Projected Bruins lines:
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Jordan Caron-Patrice Bergeron-Blake Wheeler
Mark Recchi-Tyler Seguin-Michael Ryder
Shawn Thornton-Gregory Campbell-Brad Marchand
Zdeno Chara- Andrew Ference
Mark Stuart- Dennis Seidenberg
Matt Hunwick-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Daniel Paille, Brian McGrattan
Projected Maple Leafs lines:
Nikolai Kulemin-Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur-Mikhail Grabovski-Kris Versteeg/John Mitchell
Fredrik Sjostrom-Tim Brent-Luca Caputi
Mike Brown-Michael Zigomanis-Colton Orr
Dion Phaneuf-Francis Beauchemin
Tomas Kaberle-Luke Schenn
Mike Komisarek-Brett Lebda
Scratches:Carl Gunnarsson, Versteeg or Mitchell