BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins will get a late Christmas present on Thursday night when Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Jake DeBrusk all return from injuries vs. the New Jersey Devils and give the B’s the closest they’ve had to a full lineup in more than a month.
It won’t be totally full, however, as second-year D-man Charlie McAvoy (lower body) will be out after blocking a shot in the pre-Christmas loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last weekend.
The return of Chara and Miller will certainly give the B’s some of their toughness and intimidation factor back and will allow the Black and Gold to make life much more difficult on some of the elite offensive players in the league. In recent weeks, both Jack Eichel and Sebastian Aho torched the B’s defense with prodigious individual games. That’s something that becomes infinitely tougher with Chara and Miller patrolling the blue line.
“I don’t think our mentality changes because I think this group plays hard no matter who is in or out of the lineup,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Of course we’re a better team with our better players in the lineup. So, the mentality is we’re a little more hard-nosed, and matchup-wise we’ve got [some more] rugged defensemen now than maybe we couldn’t two weeks ago. They’re a little bit more ornery in the defensive zone against skill. I think it showed against [Jack] Eichel’s line. There was a night where we could have used somebody that made it harder on Jack.
“That’s the difference it makes [with Miller and Chara]. I think we’re a tougher matchup for the skill guys on the other team because those guys relish playing against good offensive players, and they take a lot of pride in shutting them down. Hopefully, they leave them with a few welts on their body as they leave town.”
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Jaroslav Halak was the first goalie off the ice at the Thursday morning skate, so he’ll get the start against the Devils after Tuukka Rask allowed five goals in Carolina. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on the morning skate:
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