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Drew Stafford makes Bruins debut

The Bruins newest player, Drew Stafford, took to the ice in pregame warmups.John Tlumacki/Globe staff

Drew Stafford made his Black and Gold debut Saturday night and backup goaltender Anton Khudobin was in net for the Bruins against the Devils.

Stafford, acquired Wednesday in the waning moments before the NHL trade deadline, supplanted the underperforming Jimmy Hayes at right wing on a line with Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano.

Khudobin, winner of his last two starts, gave Tuukka Rask a break, a luxury the Bruins were not able to afford down the stretch the last two seasons. Rask will be back in net Monday night when the Bruins face the Senators in Ottawa.

“He’s a guy that finishes well — he goes to the net,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, who also believes Stafford, a righthanded shot, could provide relief if needed at left wing. “He can make plays. On paper, he could be a good fit for that line.”


Cassidy also noted that Stafford, playing on the No. 3 line, would not have to face the opposition’s best defensive forwards or top shutdown pairing. Translation: more room to operate.

“So ease him into it a little more,” said Cassidy. “But still play him in a position of offense with guys that make plays. So that’s our thinking. And he may move around [the lineup] as well. He’s a new piece of the puzzle and we’ll see where he fits.”

Stafford, 31, will cost the Bruins a fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round selection in the 2018 draft, depending on whether the Bruins make the playoffs or how many rounds they play.

Stafford, a standout for three seasons at the University of North Dakota, turned pro in 2006 and spent eight-plus seasons with the Sabres, where he potted a career-high 31 goals in 2010-11. Six of those goals came in back-to-back games against the Bruins, in which he connected for hat tricks in a three-week span around the new year.


“It definitely helps to get out there with the boys,” said Stafford, who arrived in town Thursday, just prior to the 2-1 loss to the Rangers.

“Especially today, considering [Friday] was more of an optional skate. Somewhat of a practice, a little bit of structure, talked to the coaches about a little bit of system stuff . . . do some video and be ready to go.”

Khudobin, who picked up the win Feb. 23 in Los Angeles, will be needed to spell Rask down the stretch. After Saturday night, the Bruins have 17 games remaining, including three sets of back-to-backs.

“I’d love to tell you we have a scripted plan for the next [17] games,” said Cassidy, “but we don’t. Right now we want to make sure Tuukka gets appropriate rest. Whether that’s every third or fourth game, we will deal with it as we go along.”

Rask (30-15-4) started six of the last eight games, including the loss to the Rangers.

Rask, who will turn 30 on Friday, has reached the 30-win plateau for four consecutive seasons.

Creating competition

Despite Hayes losing his lineup spot Saturday night to Stafford, Cassidy has been pleased of late with the winger’s performance.

“He’s played very well for what we’ve asked him to do,” said Cassidy, who watched Hayes collect a pair of assists over the last nine games. “That line [with Vatrano and Spooner] has been a positive line for us. They’ve scored some goals. They’ve kept the puck out of their own net. They’ve limited chances for the most part.”


Noting that he would like more production from Hayes (2-3—5 in 49 games), as well as all lines, the move was not meant “as any disrespect to Jimmy’s game,” said the coach.

“He’s done what we’ve asked over the last three weeks,” added Cassidy. “But we’ve also said we’ve tried to create some competition and with the new guy coming in, that’s what it does. We hope that everyone elevates their game a little bit, wants to be the guy that’s in, not out, and Jimmy is no different in that regard.”

Power play cools

The Boston power play, blistering hot for much of February, has cooled off of late. It entered Saturday night without a goal (0 for 4) in the last two games and had been blanked in four of the last six games overall. The power play went 1 for 2 and it would have been 2 for 2 had Stafford’s power-play strike not been negated for goalie interference. Stafford played on the club’s No. 2 power-play unit, subbing in for rookie Peter Cehlarik on left wing with David Krejci and David Backes.

“Power plays are cyclical,” said Cassidy, his club ranked 14th (19.8 percent) on the man-advantage through Friday’s games. “You get hot and everything seems to go your way. We’ve got to get out of a bit of a down cycle.”

By Cassidy’s eye, the power-play units have mismanaged the puck at times when entering the offensive zone, and they’ve failed to make solid plays after winning faceoffs in the attacking zone.


“We’ve been No. 1 all year in possession time and offensive-zone time,” he said. “We’ve got to clean up, because I believe our power play, like a lot of power plays, if you spend enough time in the offensive zone you are going to score — just because you have good players out there. We have to be a little bit more judicious with the puck, and now some added urgency around their net.”

No place like home

The Bruins will be in Ottawa on Monday, a homecoming for Cassidy, whose days as a point-producing defenseman for the Ottawa 67s made him a first-round pick (No. 18, Chicago) in the 1983 draft.

“It’s nice to see family, I am no different than anyone else,” said Cassidy. “I get along with my brother, his boys, and everyone else, so it will be nice to see them. But we have a job to do. Ottawa’s a team — where we are sitting right now — the games are more magnified. Two points is two points, but let’s face it, they are right there [in the standings] with us, so that will be the task at hand.”

Asked to pick between the Charles River or Ottawa’s storied Rideau Canal, Cassidy added, “Well, can you skate on the Charles River? I don’t know yet. But I know you can skate on the Rideau Canal. Every kid in Ottawa has when they were young, and it’s a great experience.”


Stitches for McQuaid

Late in the third period, Adam McQuaid came perilously close to being seriously hurt when he was struck around his neck by one of teammate Backes’s skate blades. Upended along the boards, one of Backes’s legs came up high and stuck the 6-foot-4-inch McQuaid in the face/neck area. “It looked a little dangerous when he went off,” said Cassidy. “I think he got a couple of stitches and should be OK.” . . . Entering the night, the Bruins had scored first in seven of Cassidy’s nine games behind the bench. Friday’s loss to the Rangers was the first of Cassidy’s games in which they never held the lead. Through nine games, the Bruins held a staggering advantage in lead time: 333:57 to 44:24, better than a 7:1 ratio . . . Brad Marchand entered the night with 12 goals in his last 14 games, which projects to 70 goals over an 82-game season. The breakdown on the dozen goals: eight even strength, three power play, one shorthanded . . . Through Friday’s games, the Bruins had two players among the league’s top 20 goal scorers: Marchand (sixth, 29) and David Pastrnak (tied 15th, 26). Ex-Bruin Tyler Seguin (22) ranked 28th, and another ex-Bostonian, Phil Kessel (21), was T37 . . . Patrice Bergeron ranked No. 5 in shots on net (229). Patrice the Thief also ranked No. 1 in faceoff wins (825), winning an impressive 59 percent of his drops. Bergeron rolled along at the faceoff dot, winning 15 of 26 drops for 58 percent

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.