BOSTON – Bruce Cassidy has been hinting for several days that he was considering making some changes to his lineup and on Thursday morning he announced a bevy of personnel tweaks ahead of the Bruins’ matchup against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden.
On the back end, Mike Rilly and Josh Brown will sub in for Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton as Boston’s third pairing. Reilly has been a healthy scratch for three straight games with his last action coming on March 21 vs. Montreal. Brown, meanwhile, will be making his Bruins debut after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline.
“We had discussed a while ago how to get all eight guys involved,” said Cassidy. “They’ve been practicing together. I think that helps, keep them as a pair and then we’ll sort through as we go how it breaks out after that. Cliffy had a tough night the other night. But they’ve been good , him and Forbort, for a while – good stretch, solid, consistent, played within themselves hockey.
“Reilly was fine. He was just the odd man out because I thought Forbort and Clifton being a pair would be easier against those types of teams we’d be. He’s back in on the left side. Brown, it was always our intention to get him in at some point. Tonight’s the night.”
Up front, both Nick Foligno (lower-body) and Craig Smith (illness) are considered day-to-day and will not play against the Devils. As such, Anton Blidh will get his first game action since March 16 in Minnesota, playing with Tomas Nosek and Curtis Lazar on the B’s fourth line. Marc McLaughlinwho will be making his NHL debut, will take the place of Smith as Boston’s third-line right wing alongside Trent Frederic and Charlie Coyle.
“Practice, very professional in his approach, does everything hard,” Cassidy said of McLaughlin, who is a natural centerman. “Ready to go when it’s his turn, alert, focused. So that part’s great. Shoots the puck very hard, passes the puck very hard. He’s got hard habits, for lack of a better term, which are gonna be required at this level Let’s see how he mixes in in a professional environment.
“We’ve asked him to just play his game. He had success in college for a reason. Stick with that and see how he kind of develops chemistry with his linemates and how his own individual game goes.”
McLaughlin, a native of Billerica, Massachusetts, and the former captain of Boston College, expects to have roughly 50 family members and friends in the stands for his debut.
“Obviously a lot of different emotions,” said McLaughlin, who has been with the team since signing a two-year, entry-level deal on March 15. “Definitely really excited to say the least – you get a chance to play in the NHL but to be wearing the Bruins sweater at the same time is really special…there’s a ton of leaders in the locker room. Just trying to absorb as much as I can and learn from them. to absorb it.”
Linus Ullmark will make the start between the pipes.
Video: McLaughlin to make NHL debut vs. NJ Devils
New Jersey is coming to town well-rested, having beaten the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night, 3-2, in a shootout. The Devils, who have lost five of their last seven, are in seventh place in the Metro Division with a 24-37-5 record and 53 points.
Jesper Bratt paces the Devils with 65 points (22 goals, 43 assists) in 61 games this season, while Jack Hughes leads the club with 24 goals in 46 games. Nico Hischier (18 goals), Dawson Mercer (16), Damon Severson (10), Yegor Sharangovich (16), Andreas Johnsson (11), Pavel Zacha (13), Tomas Tatar (12), and Nathan Bastian round out an offensive attack that has 10 players with double digits in the goal column.
“They play with a lot of pace. They’ve been scoring goals,” Cassidy said of the Devils, who ranked eighth in the NHL in scoring since Feb. 1 with an average of 3.45 goals per game. “Their top guys are going, they’re quick and if you allow them room to skate through the neutral zone, they can be dangerous off the rush.
“On the flip side, if we defend there well and counterattack, well then I think we’ll get our opportunities because they’re going so hard one way that the other way has been a challenge for them to defend the blue line.
“It’s a bit of a tale of the neutral zone tonight, who controls that area will probably have the most success.”
Video: Cassidy talks before the Bruins play the NJ Devils
The Bruins will honor the career of Tuukka Rask, the organization’s all-time winningest goalie, with a special pregame puck drop. Rask announced his retirement on Feb. 9, 2022.
Thursday’s Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk
Taylor Hall – Eric Haula – David Pastrnak
Trent Frederic – Charlie Coyle – Marc McLaughlin
Anton Blidh – Tomas Nosek – Curtis Lazar
Hampus Lindholm – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo
Mike Rilly – Josh Brown
Video: McLaughlin to make NHL Debut vs. McLaughlin Devils on Thursday