Warfield native Craig Cunningham will start the season in the NHL tonight as a Boston Bruin.
Cunningham was named to the Bruins’ 23-man roster on Wednesday and will likely get the fourth-line start at centre when they open the 2014-15 season at home tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers.
In a bit of a surprise move, the Bruins placed Cunningham, forward Jordan Caron, and defenceman David Warsofsky on waivers Saturday, but by Sunday all three had cleared.
Warsofsky was assiged to their AHL affliliate in Providence Sunday and Caron as the last cut on Wednesday, while Cunningham remained with the NHL club.
Boston can keep the 24-year-old forward on the roster for 30 days, or up to 10 games, and move him back and forth between the big club and affiliate before making a final decision. Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said the line up will be in flux for the first few weeks of the season.
“[I want to] just see how the team performs to start the season,” Chiarelli said at a Bruins press conference on Monday. “We have a couple of combinations and permutations that we can start our roster at. So you may see a couple of recalls, and the fact that we put Cunningham and Jordan on waivers doesn’t mean that they’re cut, it means it gives us flexibility to move them up and down. So [we’re] just kind of piecing the roster together.”
In Tuesday’s morning practice Cunningham centred a line with Daniel Paille on the left side, and Simon Gagne and Bobby Robins alternating on the right wing.
Cunningham is a versatile forward with a relentless work ethic, who can play centre or the wing. He amassed three 20-goal seasons with Providence, and missed just two games over that span.
“Obviously, there’s always pressure (to make the team),” Cunningham said. “I think every guy in this room will tell you that the most pressure there is, is the pressure you put on yourself. We’re all accountable, and we all are competitive guys and want that last job.
“(It’s) right down to the wire here, and everyone’s putting pressure on themselves. We’re all fighting against each other and fighting with each other, so it’s kind of a unique situation,” added the former Beaver Valley Nitehawk.
Cunningham’s biggest supporter all along has been Bruins forward Milan Lucic who played with Cunningham in Major Junior on the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.
“It’s great,” said Lucic. “I love seeing him around and having him around. It’s good to see him progress the way he has. I remember him when he was a 16-year-old playing with us, and he was just a shy, sensitive kid out of Trail, British Columbia.
“He’s grown up a lot, and he’s experienced a lot. He’s also gotten better over his time in the last seven years.
“It’s great to see him earn a chance like this, and that he can do the best for himself to really stick around full time. He knows how to play. He knows how to get into the battles, he knows how to hit and take hits, and he knows to play in hard games.
“He was taught at a young age that he has to play a certain way in order to survive, so he knows how to survive. He can be an effective player, and he’s also had that scoring knack down in Providence.”
Former local Bruins include Tom McVie and Joe Zanussi.
McVie served 17 years in the Boston organization, 11 as a scout, and finally had his name etched on the Stanley Cup when the Bruins beat Vancouver in Game 7 of the 2011 final.
Zanussi was part of the 1975 trade that sent Phil Esposito to the New York Rangers, and Brad Park and Jean Ratelle to the Bruins.
The Bruins host
tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Rollheiser was the sixth round draft pick for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The six-foot, 225 pound goalie had 871 saves in 30 games, with a .906 save percentage in the Beast’s inaugural year last season.