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Bruins may think about picking spots to rest veterans in season’s second half

Nick Foligno, a 34-year-old veteran of 16 NHL seasons, calls the part of the schedule the Bruins are approaching "the dog days."Steven Senne/Associated Press

Nine players on the Bruins roster Thursday night vs. the Kraken were age 30 or above, including 37-year-old Patrice Bergeron, the old man in the “C” and the eldest of the bunch.

As the second half of their 82-game schedule is about to begin Saturday vs. Toronto, the back nine could be time for coach Jim Montgomery to find some of his graybeards some breathing room.

“March and April, especially March, get really dense,” said Montgomery, noting a schedule that has the Bruins playing 15 games across 29 days in March. “So, you know, if we keep banking points, maybe there’s [options].”


Montgomery, his Bruins a league-best 32-5-4 after the 3-0 loss to Seattle, said he might consider giving a vet or two a night off when the schedule calls for games on back-to-back nights. There are seven such “couplets” in the second half, including next week’s visits to the Islanders and Rangers.

Another potential spot for a vet to get a break, added Montgomery, will be in situations when the Bruins play three games across four days. There are eight of those situations in the second half.

“I don’t think any of them are going to volunteer not to play,” mused Montgomery, “but maybe that’s something that we could possibly do.”

The overall roster depth, added Montgomery, makes it a little bit easier to manage individual time on ice game to game.

Prior to the salary cap, roster relief was easier to manage, in part, because players could be readily summoned from minor league affiliates. Call-ups are still possible, but for clubs tiptoeing near the $82.5 million cap, such as the Bruins, it can difficult to make the dollars work.

“Correct, it makes it hard,” said Montgomery, “so maybe one guy has a groin [injury], and maybe he’s the one who sits the middle of three-in-four, and someone sits out the tail end of a back-to-back. Those are things we are thinking about, but you know, who knows if it’s logically going to be able to happen?”


Montgomery was especially mindful of giving the club ample days off in the first half, which isn’t likely to change as the playoffs approach. Vets also can take maintenance days, remaining off the ice on practice days.

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery looks on from the bench late in the third period of Thursday's loss.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Veteran Nick Foligno, 34, calls these the “dog days” of the schedule when players find out if they “are willing to put the work in to find a way to get better.”

“The good teams,” he said, “are the ones that find a way to do that. They come out of the stretch in a sprint … and you get into the playoffs feeling really good about your game.”

Nothing wrong with a maintenance day here and there, said Foligno, kiddingly adding, “You’ll have to ask some of the older guys, like Bergy and Krech.”

“You know what?” he said, back to being serious. “I think the luxury you can have sometimes with the depth we have is that if someone is banged up, we can use [roster depth] to our advantage. I think you are seeing it more and more.

“But hockey players are a different breed. We don’t really like maintenance days; practice time is fine for maintenance days, but when it’s game time, everyone wants to play.”

The nine 30-plus players in the lineup vs. the Kraken had résumés adding up to 7,393 regular-season games, topped by Bergeron (1,257), Foligno (1,062), David Krejci (998), and Brad Marchand (907).


The other five: Craig Smith (816), Taylor Hall (802), Charlie Coyle (744), Derek Forbort (437), and Tomas Nosek (370).

The Kraken, by the way, had seven players age 30-plus on their game roster. But none was older than 32 (Martin Jones, Justin Schultz, and Jordan Eberle).


Matty Beniers, the Kraken’s heady freshman forward from Hingham, has a line of 16-18—34 in 41 games, best among NHL rookies and 8 points better than Anaheim’s Mason McTavish entering the night.

Beniers did not get on the scoresheet and landed only two shots on net. He also lost 5 of his 7 faceoffs.

Asked before the game if he felt there was a comparable for Beniers among past or current NHLers, Montgomery praised Benier’s overall game, particularly his defensive reads.

“I mean in the D-zone, tracking [pucks], and then on the forecheck,” said Montgomery. “I don’t want to compare him to Bergy, but like you see some of those qualities in the way he plays without the puck.”

Beniers could become only the second Bay Stater to win the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year), following Acton-Boxboro High’s Tom Barrasso (Sabres) in 1983-84.


Joona Koppanen, a 24-year-old Finnish forward, made his NHL debut, centering the Bruins’ fourth line (relieving an injured Nosek).

Koppanen, on the ice for Seattle’s first goal, logged 8:50 in ice time and did a solid job at the faceoff dot, winning 5 of 7. Overall, the Bruins won a whopping 73 percent of the faceoffs and fired more pucks (60) than Seattle (48). But the Kraken landed more (31-27) and had the edge in Grade A chances.


Joona Koppanen made his NHL debut Thursday against Seattle.Maddie Meyer/Getty

Koppanen said his girlfriend was in the building to witness his debut, but his family remained home in Finland.

Koppanen, selected 135th in the 2016 draft, finally made it to the show after 5½ seasons in the minors, logging 227 games in AHL and ECHL tours.

“A culmination of all the hard work it takes to get to this point,” said Foligno, reflecting on Koppanen’s first NHL night. “So enjoy.”

Koppanen asked Foligno how early he should leave his hotel digs in Watertown to be at the Garden for the 7:08 p.m. faceoff.

“I told him, ‘You should leave about 2 p.m.,’ ” said Foligno.

We’re pretty sure he was joking.


During the first period, Delaware North announced that it came to an agreement with TD Bank on a 20-year naming rights extension. The Vault on Causeway will be formally known as TD Garden through the year 2045.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at