Patrice Bergeron has gotten healthy just in time for the Boston Bruins home opener tonight against the New Jersey Devils. Coach Claude Julien confirmed the speculation that the career Bruin is healthy and ready to go. The face of the franchise suffered a lower body injury in his final preseason game, causing him to miss the Bruins’ season-opening road trip. Big free agent acquisition David Backes took his place, skating between Bergeron’s partner in crime, Brad Marchand, and the up-and-coming David Pastrnak and the trio combined for 16 points and a +21 rating as Boston went 2-1 in their first three.
However, when Julien was asked if there was any chance that he would stick with the top line while they’re playing so well, thereby separating Bergeron and Marchand, the head coach answered with a definitive “not a chance”. Bergeron led the Bruins in points in 2015-16 with 32 goals and 36 assists, and played alongside Marchand in every game that the pair were both healthy, as Marchand scored a career-high 61 points. The dynamic duo then lit up the World Cup of hockey, playing with Sidney Crosby, and now look to reignite their chemistry and lead the Bruins back to the playoffs.
The alternate captain is expected to jump right in on the current top line for the Bruins, while Backes will likely change lines and positions, switching to right wing on David Krejci’s line. The Bruins will have to work out some balance in their forward lines, as they are center-heavy with Bergeron, Krejci, Backes, last year’s breakout star Ryan Spooner, and free agent acquisitions Riley Nash and Dominic Moore.
One guy no longer in the mix is Austin Czarnik, who played well in preseason, earning himself an NHL gig while Bergeron was out. Czarnik has been assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, according to a team release. Czarnik was scratched in the Bruins last game, and the organization felt that getting him play time at any level was more valuable than keeping in Boston without a full-time role. However, Czarnik put up big numbers in the AHL last season, playing with Frank Vatrano and the now-departed Seth Griffith, and is likely to find more success as the center of the P-Bruins top line, between veteran Peter Mueller and 2015 first-rounder Jake DeBrusk, so don’t be surprised to see the Miami University product back on the B’s at some point this season.