Half of Boston Bruins head to China for exhibition games against Flames

AP, BOSTON

Thu, Sep 13, 2018 - Page 16

Half the Bruins are heading to China to start camp, half are staying home. That is not ideal in the NHL, where a bad start could ruin the season.

Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said he hopes his team can make the most of the trip on and off the ice.

The Bruins on Tuesday left for China, where they are to play exhibition games against the Calgary Flames in Shenzhen on Saturday and in Beijing on Wednesday next week.

This is the second year the NHL has played exhibition games in China. The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks made the trip last season.

In addition to hockey, the trip includes some free time and organized activities.

“Once we get on the ice I’m hoping that it’s all business,” Cassidy said.

“We have our allotted amount of time, we have to make sure we take advantage of that, get the proper teaching in and the proper work. And then the evaluation comes for the players,” he said.

A total of 22 players made the trip with Cassidy, as well as a few assistant coaches and some front-office personnel.

Assistant coach Joe Sacco and another coach remained in North America to work with a second group of 35 players, along with general manager Don Sweeney.

Boston are trying to progress from a season in which they made the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2014, finishing in second place in the Eastern Conference with 112 points.

The trip to China adds a challenge in preparing for a season that starts when Boston opens at the Washington Capitals on Oct. 3.

Forward Brad Marchand chose to look at the benefits of a long trip.

“It throws it off a little bit, but at times it’s going to be fun. It’s going to give us the time to get away,” said Marchand, who led the Bruins with 85 points last season. “We’re going to have a lot more time to bond than we normally do, especially early on when you have some new guys... You can’t duplicate that at home.”

The players who did not go to China are to face the Capitals in pre-season games on Sunday and Tuesday next week, as well as the Detroit Red Wings on the following Saturday.

In both hemispheres, several Bruins will be competing for jobs. Rookies Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka are battling for the third-line center job while in China.

“They have to understand that the focus has to be a little more on hockey than on visiting a foreign country,” Cassidy said.

Cuts will come quickly after the two groups reunite after the trip, Sweeney said.