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Bonino aims to make Predators' debut vs. Bruins

BOSTON -- Nick Bonino missed the last four games of the Stanley Cup Final with a broken leg and watched as his Pittsburgh Penguins brought home the championship for the second straight season.

Bonino hopes to make his debut for Nashville, the loser of that final series, on Thursday when the Predators open the season against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

"Barring any setbacks, I feel good," said Bonino, who sat out the preseason but was practicing with his new team throughout training camp.

"That's something we'll take a look (at) with the docs and make a final assessment, but I feel as good as I can right now."

Bonino, the third center behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, signed a four-year, $16.4 million contract with the Predators and is expected to be the No. 2 center in Nashville.

"We're talking about a really smart two-way player that seems to pick things up and has been around a little bit," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "I don't foresee it being a problem."

The Predators, the 16th and final team to make it to the 2017 playoffs, added Bonino, defenseman Alexei Emelin and forward Scott Hartnell to the mix while losing captain Mike Fisher (retirement), James Neal, Vernon Fiddler and Colin Wilson. But they will also be without key defenseman Ryan Ellis, who will miss four to six months with knee surgery. The defense corps remains deep in front of Pekka Rinne and the question with this team is scoring depth up front.

The Bruins went 18-8-1 under then-interim coach Bruce Cassidy after Claude Julien was fired last season, snapping a two-year postseason drought. They exited in the first round against the Ottawa Senators.

There were needs, both on defense and up front, but Boston did little in the offseason. In fact, one could say the Bruins did nothing, electing to go with developing youth, led by 19-year-old defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who hardly looked out of place in his late-season audition.

There's youth and there's speed and the question will be if it can jell and send this team back into the playoffs.

"We have some really good players that have come in and shown that they're ready to play," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who had a career-high 39 goals and led his team with 85 points last season. "We have some spots available, and that's what you need in today's NHL, to have young guys comes in and produce and can carry a bit of the load.

"We definitely have some guys that are going to be able to do that. ... It's going to help us not only this year but the next five or six years."

They do have some injury/illness concerns heading into the opener. Torey Krug (broken jaw) is missing from a defense being counted on to help Tuukka Rask, while leader Patrice Bergeron was day-to-day with a lower-body injury and David Backes stayed home from Wednesday's practice because of illness.

The status on both Bergeron and Backes for the opener was not known.

Last season, the teams split their two games, both winning on home ice.

Thursday night's opener comes on a busy day/night for the Boston-area sports fan. The Red Sox open their American League Division Series in Houston late in the afternoon and the Patriots visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at night.

Updated October 4, 2017

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