- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- On the first day of a new NHL season there’s always something that stands out as memorable. Whether from a team or individual standpoint, there’s a buzz about the first of 82 games.
The Bruins return to the ice Thursday night and open their season against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. The last time the Bruins played a meaningful game on home ice, they watched the Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup in victory after Game 6 of the finals.
The team learned from that loss but won’t dwell on it moving forward. Plus, there were significant changes made to the Bruins’ roster during the summer and those additions add excitement to the new season.
While Boston signed Iginla as a free agent, Eriksson and Smith (along with prospects Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser) were acquired via trade from the Dallas Stars in exchange for forwards Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley on July 4.
There’s a lot to like about the new additions, and all three can’t wait to get going tonight.
“I know they have a lot of fans here and it’s probably going to be crowded tonight,” Eriksson said. “Everyone is excited to see the first game, and all the players are ready to get going, too. I can’t wait for it to start.”
“We feel pretty good out there,” Eriksson said. “We’ve had a lot of practices together and played a few games together, too.”
Smith did play the season opener for Dallas last season, but playing on Opening Night in Boston is going to be a bit different.
“It’s not going to be easy to take my afternoon nap,” Smith said. “There should be a couple of butterflies, but after the first couple of shifts they should die down pretty good.”
“I think it’s developed well,” Smith said. “In Boston, I’m playing a little different role than I did last year in Dallas. You’re always trying to add different things to your game and so far I think it’s gone pretty well. I just need to keep building on it.”
Bruins rookie defenseman Torey Krug will also experience a first on Thursday night.
He’s played in only three regular-season games, but he became a phenomenon in Boston last spring when he was thrust into the lineup during the Stanley Cup playoffs and played 15 games. Tonight will be his first opening night in the NHL.
“It’s very different,” Krug said. “The feeling in the locker room, obviously it’s not as intense [as the playoffs]. At the same time, there’s urgency in this team to get back to where we want to be. For me personally, it’s very different, but it’s similar again. I have to make sure I’m not getting comfortable because I have to earn every single day when I come to the rink. There are guys pushing to get in the lineup that can play the game at a high level, so for me, every day I have to prove myself. That was kind of the same in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
The 22-year-old blueliner played 63 games for the P-Bruins last season and he’s hoping to make an impact for the Bruins for the entire 82-game season.
“I expect to lean on all the older guys,” Krug said. “To see the way guys prepare, and I’m going to have to lean on those older guys to understand how to take care of myself for an 82-game season. I went through it down in Providence, but it’s a different schedule. You’re not playing every other day [in the AHL], what you’re doing is playing three games in the weekend, so there’s a different dynamic you have to be cautious of. There’s definitely going to be some learning curves this year, for sure.”
When the puck drops tonight, it will mark the start of the 90th season in the organization’s history. But it will be a night of firsts.