The 2021-22 NHL season got underway Tuesday night, but the Boston Bruins will have to wait until Saturday to begin their regular season schedule against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden.
The B's had a busy offseason that saw them add several veteran players to the roster.
They upgraded their bottom-six forward depth with the free agent acquisitions of Tomas Nosek, Erik Haula and Nick Foligno. One key trait among each of these players is their versatility, both in terms of being able to play center or on the wing, as well as the ability to play different roles on different lines.
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The addition of these veterans made it tough for some of the team's younger players and prospects to make the Opening Night roster, including 2017 second-round draft pick Jack Studnicka. Studnicka impressed in training camp and the preseason, but he was left off the initial NHL roster and will begin his season in Providence. It was a tough but correct choice. If there's an injury, especially at center, Studnicka likely will be the first player called up.
Charlie Coyle, as expected, will begin the season as the No. 2 center in place of David Krejci, who departed in free agency to return home to the Czech Republic.
Curtis Lazar is week-to-week with an upper body injury after he crashed into the net during the preseason finale versus the Washington Capitals. His absence creates an opening on the fourth line, one that Karson Kuhlman could fill, at least to start the year. Kuhlman brings plenty of energy and truculence to the lineup.
On the blue line, we could see the Forbort-McAvoy pairing right off the bat. Charlie McAvoy played most of last season alongside Matt Grzelcyk, but the Bruins want to see what the Forbort-McAvoy duo looks like. Forbort isn't on Grzelcyk's level in regards to offensive skill and skating, but he plays a heavier, more defensive-minded game and blocks a lot of shots. It will be interesting to see how this new top pairing works out.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has not yet named a starting goalie for the season opener. Based on primarily merit, rookie Jeremy Swayman should get the nod. He outplayed Linus Ullmark in the preseason and was impressive last season.
However, the B's gave Ullmark a four-year, $20 million contract in free agency. That's starter money, so it wouldn't be surprising if he gets the first go Saturday night. The Bruins also don't need to rush Swayman. He'll get plenty of action throughout the year.
UPDATE (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET): Swayman will get the start in Saturday's season opener, head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed.
Here's the projected Opening Night lineup for the Bruins.
Brad Marchand--Patrice Bergeron--David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall--Charlie Coyle--Craig Smith
Jake DeBrusk--Erik Haula--Nick Foligno
Trent Frederic--Tomas Nosek--Karson Kuhlman
Derek Forbort--Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly--Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk--Connor Clifton
Jeremy Swayman (starter), Linus Ullmark (backup)