Without Zdeno Chara, the Bruins’€™ defense figured to be suspect at best. At least there were no surprises on opening night.

The only time Claude Julien had more new faces to open a season with the Bruins, his was technically the new one.

“My first year I had over twenty new guys,” Julien said Thursday morning with a grin. “I didn’€™t know anybody, right?”

When Julien and the Bruins begin the season Thursday night, he will likely have five players making their Bruins debuts in Jimmy Hayes, Matt Beleskey, Joonas Kemppainen, Matt Irwin and Zac Rinaldo. That ties 2007-08, Julien’€™s first season with the B’€™s, as the most new Bruins in an opening night lineup in the Julien era, not counting backup goalies.

Between Julien’€™s first season and now, the most new Bruins on an opening night was three, which came in 2010-11 (Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell, Tyler Seguin) and 2013-14 (Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith). The Bruins have often had remarkably little roster turnover. Last season, for example, Bobby Robins was the only newbie in the lineup to begin the season.

Of course, players such as Robins who were in the organization beforehand had at least some comfort level with the B’€™s. All five of the new Bruins for Thursday’€™s opener were brought in this offseason in either trades or free agency. The number could have been even higher Thursday, but trade acquisition Colin Miller and 2009 sixth-round pick Tyler Randell are expected to be healthy scratches.

‘€œI think it’€™s been a good three-plus weeks where we’€™ve been able to kind of work individually as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,’€ Julien said. ‘€œEverything right now, we’€™re pleased with it, we’€™re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too. I don’€™t have any issues with the number of new players. I just have a preoccupation with getting the whole group ready to play here tonight.’€

Beleskey will play on David Krejci‘€™s line with David Pastrnak, while Hayes will start off playing left wing with Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly. Kemppainen and Rinaldo will skate on the fourth line with Chris Kelly. The only newcomer expected on the blue line Thursday, Irwin figures to be paired with Zach Trotman.

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DJ Bean

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance on Ordway, Merloni and Fauria on Thursday to preview the Bruins’ season.

Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance on Ordway, Merloni and Fauria on Thursday to preview the Bruins’ season. To hear the interview, go to the OM&F audio on demand page.

McGuire said with so many players being added to the team in the offseason, patience is going to be key for coach Claude Julien, as well as getting off to a hot start.

“Well, he’s going to have to be because that’s patience is going to be part of his job to make sure these players learn how to play,” McGuire said. “Dougie Houda, the other assistant coach who works mostly with the defense, he’s going to have to do some pretty patient work with those young players as well on defense. The expectation in Boston is so high, obviously, and it should be. It is a strong franchise and an original six franchise. I love the intensity. The fan base is obviously rapid.

“It’s an important franchise in the league, but it’s really, really critical that they get off to a good start because this is the kind of thing that confidence is going to be a premium. If they get off to a bad start, the confidence starts to wain, it would be a tough year.”

With the team already dealing with a number of injuries to open the year, health is a concern.

“They will have to start getting some people healthy, especially Big Z (Zdeno Chara) No. 1, and No. 2 [Dennis] Seidenberg injury sets them back a little bit,” McGuire said. “They also have Kevan Miller and Colin Miller with Colin Miller coming over in the [Milan] Lucic trade, who can really step up his game. I thought there was some moments in preseason where he was very good. The Bruins clearly know him well from his days in Manchester and his days at [Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds]. They have to hope he can get it going and obviously Torey Krug takes another step forward.

“This is going to be interesting. It is going to be interesting to watch. The one thing I would caution Bruins fans on is I would never bet against a team that has Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara in their leadership core. I never would just because I respect those guys so much.”

One player McGuire really likes is David Pastrnak and likes him along with some of the up-and-coming talent in the organization.

“I think Pastrnak is a player and I think Bruins fans an opportunity to watch him last year enough to see the skill level, the speed, the quick strike offensive capabilities, that’s really important,” he said. “In-house they have guys that are going to mature. Obviously the three first-round picks from the summer, they aren’t going to be ready this year, but not too far down the road. … I’m a little bit more optimistic future wise, but this year is going to have to play out with very few injuries and have real good goaltending and their star players Bergeron and Chara really elevating.”

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Torey Krug might be the Bruins' No. 1 defenseman Thursday. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Torey Krug will likely be a top-pair defenseman for the Bruins on Thursday. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Claude Julien, his healthy defensemen and Tuukka Rask will have their work cut out for them Thursday night as they open the season without three of their top-four defensemen from last season.

With Dougie Hamilton in Calgary, Dennis Seidenberg rehabbing from back surgery and Zdeno Chara officially out for Thursday night’€™s meeting with the Jets due to an upper-body, the Bruins’€™ top defensive pairing is now Torey Krug with Adam McQuaid.

If that sounds alarming, it’€™s because that has never been a top pairing before. Though both guys have played on Chara’€™s right at times over the years, trying to shut down Winnipeg‘€™s top forwards by themselves will be a challenge.

“I don’€™t really know what to expect, but I’€™ll obviously be prepared for that,” McQuaid said of potentially playing top-pairing minutes. “Whether we’€™ll have a definitive 1-2-3 pairings, I’€™m not quite sure. I think we’€™re all pretty capable of playing. I think it’€™s a pretty solid three pairings. We’€™ll be prepared to play against anyone.”

Boston’€™s three pairings for Thursday are expected to be Krug-McQuaid, Joe Morrow-Kevan Miller and Matt Irwin-Zach Trotman. Colin Miller is expected to be a healthy scratch on defense.

This season figured to be difficult for the Bruins defensively even before Seidenberg and Chara got hurt. The loss of Hamilton made a team that struggled on the back end last season even worse, and though the B’s had ample bodies with the additions of Matt Irwin and Colin Miller, the blue line figured to be a work in progress, at best. Without Chara, the getting-to-know-you period for guys like Irwin and new full-timers in Trotman and Morrow will be harder than expected.

Where the Bruins benefit (if you can call it that) is that they have last change at home for the first three games of the season. It’€™s unknown how much longer Chara will be kept out, but Julien will at least have an easier time getting the matchups he want while the games are at TD Garden.

That means that Winnipeg‘€™s top line of Bryan Little between Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler can probably expect a healthy dose of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson on Thursday night. Playing against the Bergeron line is never easy, but it’€™s easier when Chara isn’€™t out there, too.

A former Bruin who was sent to Atlanta in the 2011 Rich Peverley trade, Wheeler likely would have seen plenty of Chara given that their positions match up (Wheeler’€™s a right wing; Chara’€™s a left D). Wheeler was matched against Seidenberg and Kevan Miller when the teams met last Nov. 28, but he faced Chara and Hamilton in a Dec. 19 meeting that saw his line go without a point and struggle with possession.

“You want to see Zee back on the ice as soon as possible, but it’€™s never that much fun playing against him with that said,’€ Wheeler said after Winnipeg‘€™s morning skate. “I mean that as a compliment. He’€™s one of the more intimidating tough guys to play against in the NHL. He’€™s a big hole to fill for sure.”

Julien answered a question about his defense Thursday by noting that the Bruins have “dealt with it before” and “dealt with it last year.” Of course, the Bruins had Hamilton then, while Boston’€™s other D’€™s assignments didn’€™t change too drastically. This will be more difficult, however long it lasts.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Claude Julien confirmed what Thursday’s morning skate suggested when he revealed the Bruins will take the cautious route with Zd

By the looks of Thursday’€™s morning skate, the Bruins may end up taking the cautious route with Zdeno Chara and hold him out of Thursday’€™s season-opener against the Jets.

The Bruins paired Chara with Colin Miller in Thursday’€™s morning skate, an indication that both could be out Thursday night after Miller did not participate in power play work Wednesday. Given Chara’€™s experience playing with the likes of Zach Trotman and Adam McQuaid, however, Thursday’€™s morning skate look could have simply been gamesmanship on Claude Julien‘€™s part. Chara has been out since Sept. 24 with an upper-body injury.

Boston’€™s roster is currently at 23 players with Chara on injured reserve. If they are to take him off IR, they would need to remove a player from the roster.

Boston’€™s lineup in morning skate was as follows:

(Tyler Randell, Max Talbot)

Morrow-Kevan Miller
(Chara-Colin Miller)


Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Discuss the start of the Bruins season and everything else with DJ Bean at 2 p.m. In the meantime, here’s some required reading:

2015-16 season preview
Is Jonas Gustavsson below average? (Yes)
What can the Bruins expect from David Krejci’s line?

Live Blog WEEI.com Bruins chat

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ESPN NHL hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Thursday morning to look ahead to the 2015-16 NHL season.

Barry Melrose

Barry Melrose

ESPN NHL hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Thursday morning to look ahead to the 2015-16 NHL season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

With the Bruins’ disappointing season last year, he feels coach Claude Julien is under pressure right away.

“I think he is. I don’t think he should be,” Melrose said. “I think Claude is a heck of a coach, won a Stanley Cup in Boston. They had a long drought, there was no Stanley Cup winners and he comes in and gets the job done and the team is good every year. I think he’s under pressure. Boston is a team that expects to win. They expect the Red Sox to win, the Patriots to win, the Celtics to win and they expect Boston to win. It’s going to be a tough year for the Bruins. They are not the dominant Bruins they once were. Everybody got a little bit better in the East and it is going to take Claude’s best coaching job he’s ever done in his life to make this a playoff team and give them a chance of winning.”

This past offseason the team lost a number of key players, including Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic. Melrose says their margin for error is very small.

“Are they as good today as they were last year? I don’t think so,” he said. “I think what has to happen for the Bruins now is they don’t have any margin anymore. The Bruins used to be able to overcome an injury or overcome maybe a struggling player here or there, but I don’t think they can anymore. I think the Bruins have to get plays from their kids, they have to get great games from [Patrice] Bergeron, [David] Krejci and [Zdeno] Chara. They can’t afford any injuries to key players. Tuukka Rask probably has to play the best he’s ever played and they just don’t have any margin for error anymore with their lineup.

“If all those things happen they are a playoff team, but if all of a sudden Bergeron misses six weeks or Krejci, who has been hurt a lot lately, misses six weeks, Chara is already starting the year hurt, [Dennis] Seidenberg is already gone for two months, so that’s going to be tough. They’ve been able to overcome those before, I don’t know if they will be able to overcome those now.”

Melrose also feels Chara has lost a step because of his age, but he is still an above average defenseman.

“He will never just be another guy because of his size and reach and how smart he is,” Melrose said. “He will never be just another guy, but I think the years have took its toll. I don’t think he’s as good now as he was three years ago when they were one of the best teams in the NHL. He’s not a dominant defenseman anymore and how can you be? How can you play the amount of games as hard as he’s played over the last number of years and still be as good as you were. Is he in great shape? Of course he’s in great shape. He’s a machine that way, but time takes it’s toll even a great competitor like Chara.”

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