BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Bruins’ plan for making the playoffs this season involves adding young talent around their veteran core.
The Bruins, who missed the postseason the past two seasons, open the regular season on Thursday on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Their lineup could feature at least three rookies: Defensemen Brandon Carlo and Rob O’Gara and forward Danton Heinen have made the opening night roster. Austin Czarnik had been on track to make the roster until he suffered a concussion last weekend.
Having first-year players to support the group of veterans highlighted by captain Zdeno Chara, forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and goaltender Tuukka Rask advances the plan general manager Don Sweeney put forth when he took over in the summer of 2015.
“That’s kind of been the plan is to try and do a better job with drafting and then do as good a job as we can developing and then seeing where that shakes out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said Tuesday during a news conference at Warrior Ice Arena.
“This training camp we probably had a couple surprises as far as guys stepping up a little earlier than maybe we anticipated. But that’s the thing that Don expressed when we interviewed him for the position about drafting, developing, getting these guys to understand the type of hockey we want them to play.”
The Bruins supplemented their veteran core by signing forward David Backes and backup goaltender Anton Khudobin as unrestricted free agents in the offseason.
But the major story in training camp was the emergence of the inexperienced players. O’Gara, Carlo and Heinen are first-year professionals, while Czarnik is in his second year of pro hockey.
A core that’s five years removed from winning the Stanley Cup could benefit from the rookies’ talent and their energy.
“We don’t give free passes to anybody,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “When they show they can play here, we give them the opportunity. We’re patient with them just like anybody else. When they make mistakes, we understand they have less experience and that’s where you’ve got work with them.
“It’s exciting there’s new blood. I think it’s exciting for the players too, the veterans. They’ve talked about it, they really feel that those guys want to be part of this hockey club and want to blend in.”
Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs also said his goal for this season is to see his team return to the playoffs.
But the Bruins are still trying to strike a balance between becoming winners again and making sure they don’t mortgage their future.
“We certainly don’t want to stray away from what we think is going to build us for some long-term success,” Neely said. “We feel like we’re on the path to do this in a way that’s going to give us some success for a long period of time. You’d like it sooner rather than later and we’ve had some surprises here at this particular camp.
“Who knows where it’ll end up by the end of the year, but I certainly feel like we’ve got some good young players who are knocking on the door or a couple years away from making an impact on our club while the core is still in a position to play at the level they’re currently playing at.”
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.