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Bruins Notebook: Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk adds to list of players to make NHL debut with team this season

December 16, 2016

PITTSBURGH — When Matt Grzelcyk took the ice last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defenseman became the eighth player to make his NHL debut for the Bruins this season, in just 31 games. That says a lot about where the B’s are, and points to a bright future with so many prospects coming up.

Prior to the 4-3 overtime loss, Grzelcyk was called up from Providence of the AHL and left winger Matt Beleskey (knee) was placed on injured reserve to open up a roster spot.

“We all know he can skate well,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Grzelcyk. “He’s a good puck-mover. (And) he actually does a pretty good job of defending by using his feet. He gets to pucks quickly.”

Understandably, the 22-year-old Boston University product was thrilled to get the call.

“I’m just really excited for the opportunity,” Grzelcyk said. “(Providence) coach (Kevin Dean) let me know after practice yesterday. I packed my bag as quick as I could, headed home, got on the plane last night and came here.”

The 5-foot-10 Grzelcyk was plus-12 for Dean’s Bruins, which is the hottest team in the AHL while riding an 8-0-4 points streak. Grzelcyk had a goal and 11 assists in Providence.

Julien’s view of Grzelcyk’s first NHL game: “As advertised, I guess. He skated well, he moved the puck well. It’s his first real game and it’s an eye-opener for anyone when they play their first real game, especially when it’s against the defending Stanley Cup champion and you see what they bring. I thought he handled himself well. I liked his game. He’s a smart player, he sees the ice well, he moves well. I thought he was a good help for us. He’s certainly a good puck-mover from the back-end, which is something every team looks for.”

Grzelcyk admitted he was nervous, and he looked it at times.

“Obviously, my first game, (I was) a little nervous at first going out there,” he said. “I was trying to make a conscious effort not to be as nervous as I was in the preseason games. I was thankful to have all the guys out there cheering me on. That support was huge.

“I didn’t want to try and do anything too crazy. I thought to make a good impression meant managing the puck and getting pucks up. So I just tried to limit turnovers, for sure.

“(The Penguins) have some of the best players in the world. It was a cool experience.”

Goalie Zane McIntyre, defenseman Brandon Carlo and Rob O’Gara, and forwards Anton Blidh, Austin Czarnik, Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly also made their NHL debuts this season.

Miller out of action

The Bruins had to play the third period and overtime with five defensemen.

Kevan Miller left the game near the end of the second period with an upper-body injury. He has played in only 12 games this season because of an October knee injury. .?.?.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played his 1,300th NHL game. For the record, he has 581 career points (179 goals, 402 assists) and is a plus-208. .?.?.

The Bruins got home in the wee hours this morning and, in the ongoing theme of this exhausting NHL season, go right back at it tonight at the Garden against the rested Anaheim Ducks.

Pastrnak impresses

Asked about the play of David Pastrnak, who had a tying goal and an assist, Julien said the club expected him to show offensive improvement this year, though maybe not quite to the “explosive” extent the 20-year-old has in his third season.

But the coach turned the conversation to Pastrnak’s play without the puck.

“The other part that people don’t talk about (is that) he seems to be taking pride in other areas of his game,” Julien said. “The last game in Montreal, at the end of the third period, he blocked two shots with no hesitation. For a player like that to have that will to do that says a lot.” .?.?.

At Sidney Crosby’s daily media scrum, the Penguins star got a good laugh out of one question: “Did you ruin Marchand and Bergeron at the World Cup?”

Crosby centered an enormously successful Team Canada line at the World Cup with the B’s Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand as his wingers. Bergeron and, to a lesser extent, Marchand, haven’t had great starts to the NHL season.

“It’s a long season,” Crosby said. “They’re good players. I’m sure they’ll find ways to put the puck in the net.”