April 12, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Shawn Thornton (22) congratulates Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly (23) after he scored the game winning goal during the first overtime period against the Washington Capitals in game one of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Projecting Line Combinations For The Bruins On Opening Night (This Shouldn't Be Too Hard)

In a little over 24-hours the Boston Bruins will be taking to the ice at the Garden to take on the very solid and improved New York Rangers. It will be the season opener for both teams and I’m pretty sure they are both looking to get off to a good start in this condensed 48-game 2013 NHL regular season.

While the Rangers have improved their offense by trading for superstar Rick Nash, the Bruins stood pretty pat and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli seems pretty content going into this season with basically the same roster he had last season. Yes, the same team that was bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year by the Washington Capitals. However, we are not here today to talk about past, but rather look to the future.

While the Bruins didn’t make any big splashes this past offseason, there will be a couple new names and faces taking the ice for the Bruins Saturday night.

As we all know, Tim Thomas is no longer the B’s starting goaltender and he won’t even be on the roster or in Massachusetts when the B’s take on the Rangers. Thomas will be sitting at his estate in Colorado with his friends and family as he takes the year off from hockey to do just that, sit at his home in Colorado with friends and family. He’s also getting ready for the total economic collapse of the United States of America but that’s another story for another day.

In comes Tuukka Rask, who is no stranger to manning the B’s crease and for some reason is being questioned by many. I can’t wait till he silences everyone (or makes me look like an idiot). In my opinion he is a very good goalie with a very good team in front of him and they seem to enjoy playing in front of Rask. Not to mention, regardless of who has been in net for the B’s during coach Claude Julien‘s reign, the B’s have almost always been in the top-5 for least goals allowed in the NHL.

On defense, the search to bring in a puck-moving defenseman via trade or free agency appears to have come to an end, at least for now. As 2011 1st round pick, Dougie Hamilton, has appeared to have made the B’s roster for at least 5 games. The B’s finally have the chance to groom their own offensive defenseman, instead of fruitlessly trying to bring one in. You’ll remember the failed Derek Morris, Tomas Kaberle and Joe Corvo experiments. Too be fair Kaberle’s name is on the Cup, but I just don’t think he was worth Joe Colborne and what turned into a 2nd round pick.

Finally, on offense the B’s traded streaky winger Benoit Pouliot to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a career AHL’er and a low draft pick during the draft. This led many to believe the B’s would just have Jordan Caron or Ryan Spooner play wing on the 3rd line with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly. However, the B’s then added well traveled player, Chris Bourque (yes, he’s the son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque) and Bourque appears to have swooped in while Caron is recovering from an injury and planted himself on the 3rd line. It appears Bourque will start the year on the 3rd line and will have every chance to show he belongs, hopefully he responds as this could be his last shot at the NHL and what better team to have a coming out party with than the team his father played for?

With all that said, here is what the Bruins line-up will most likely look like on Saturday night:

Forwards: 

Milan LucicDavid KrejciNathan Horton

The “top line” remains untouched and should get a boost with the return of a healthy Horton, who is also in a very important contract year and looking to return to form. Krejci looks to improve his inconsistent play in order to become a more consistently productive player. He has all the talent and vision, he plays well in big games and the playoffs, the B’s just need him to bring the same amount of energy and concentration to every game. Lucic is the ultimate power forward and creates the space for Krejci to make his plays and use his spectacular vision.

Tyler SeguinPatrice BergeronBrad Marchand

The B’s “2nd line” and the best line on the team inn my opinion remains untouched as well. I’m expecting Seguin and Marchand’s games to be taken to the next level, while Bergeron will remain what Bergy is, one of the best two-way centers in the league. They could end up as one of the better lines in the NHL this season, especially after looking like they were in mid-season form the other night against the Providence Bruins.

Chris BourqueChris KellyRich Peverley

The revolving door on the wing of the B’s 3rd line just keeps on spinning. In comes Bourque who is once again trying to prove he belongs in the NHL and this may be his best shot. Kelly is coming off a career year and Peverly is the Swiss Army knife of the B’s, he can do it all. This line should be one of the better 3rd lines in the league.

Daniel PailleGregory CampbellShawn Thornton

The B’s energy line and man do they create some energy, as well as some great hits and even better fights remains untouched as well. Paille and Campbell also combine to form one of the best PK-units in the NHL and Shawn Thornton is the heart and soul of the B’s. Arguably the best 4th line in the NHL, the “merlot” line as they’re often referred to here in Boston will be fun to watch as always.

Defense:

Zdeno Chara – Dougie Hamilton

Chara is the B’s captain and their unquestioned leader. He is also one of the top-5 defenseman in the league and continually logs monster minutes while playing against the best the NHL has to offer. It makes sense to pair Chara with the rookie Hamilton who will have plenty of ups and downs during his rookie campaign.

Dennis SeidenbergJohnny Boychuk

Seidenberg is one of the most underrated d-men in the NHL. He is strong, well conditioned, solid in both ends and when partnered with Chara during the B’s 2011 Stanley Cup run, they formed a dominant shutdown pairing. Boychuk is good at both ends of the ice, throws big hits and has a cannon of a shot. This is a solid pairing that has it all.

Andrew FerenceAdam McQuaid

Both guys can hit, both guys can fight, both guys can block shots, both can play shutdown defense and both love doing all those things. This pair would be tough to play against on any night and I’d never want to see either of them on the ice across from me. McQuaid is coming off a concussion and some other minor health issues so there is cause for concern, however he’s a tough kid and should be just fine.

Goalies:

Tuukka RaskAnton Khudobin

Rask takes over for the estranged Thomas and has this season (as he signed a one-year deal in the offseason) to prove he is in fact a starting goalie in the NHL and for the Bruins. This is the chance Rask has been waiting for since 2010 and I fully expect him to seize it. Khudobin is a relatively unproven NHL goalie but has shown he is more than capable of being an NHL backup in the brief glimpses we’ve seen of him. Chiarelli also drafted goalie Malcolm Subban in the 1st round of this past year’s draft, so there is some talent in the pipeline.

Feel free to let me know where you disagree and how you feel about the Boston Bruins headed into this shortened season. You can follow me on Twitter @BillyBrysonNHL or as always feel free to comment below. Also below you can sign up to receive a daily email from us containing our latest Bruins posts!

Now all we need is the season to start so we can see these guys back in action. Is it Saturday night yet?

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