Boston Herald

Ullmark gets nod in homecoming

Goalie making B’s debut vs. ex-team


BUFFALO — Linus Ullmark’s Bruins debut was going to be a notable event no matter where it happened, considerin­g the club ponied up $20 million over four years for his services.

But the fact that it is happening here in Buffalo, where he was drafted by the Sabres in 2012 and has played since 2015, adds a little extra spice to an otherwise run-of-the-mill October hockey game.

At the end of Thursday’s practice, Ullmark got the full returning-hero treatment as captain Patrice Bergeron called for him to lead the center stretch — a rare occurrence for a goalie that even coach Bruce Cassidy couldn’t remember witnessing before.

And tonight, after what had to have seemed to him like an interminab­le break since his last appearance in the preseason finale on Oct. 6, we will finally get to see for real what the B’s bought into with Ullmark.

“It was a little weird coming in, for sure, not getting in a car and driving to your home,” said Ullmark of his return to the city by the Erie Canal. “But instead I went down to the Westin and slept there for the night. But coming in this morning it felt familiar, obviously, after a lot of years here. But in a good way. I’m excited about (Friday).”

Ullmark’s preseason was not the greatest. Rookie Jeremy Swayman earned the nod for opening night, then played well enough to get a second straight start in Philadelph­ia, which did not go nearly as well as the opener — or any of his other NHL starts for that matter.

Now it’s Ullmark’s turn to show that the preseason games — he lost both his two full starts in overtime — were not the best he can give.

He’s certainly had the practice. He will have gone 16 days without a game when the puck is dropped at KeyBank Center on Friday.

“It’s getting better every day,” said Ullmark of his extended practice time and his on-ice communicat­ion with teammates. “It’s a work in progress. I’m one of the new guys for once and they’re taking good care of me. There’s a lot of conversati­on on and off the ice. That just makes it more automatic, instead of thinking about what I should do. It’s in the back of my brain all the time.”

Ullmark said that he had a delayed emotional reaction when he decided to leave the only NHL franchise he’s known up until now.

“I spent nine years in the organizati­on. And it didn’t really hit me until afterwards when I actually made up my mind,” said Ullmark. “I made some phone calls to some of the (people) that are close to heart and really let them know what they meant to me and how they helped me through the years and I’m very thankful for their support. Once I started doing that, it actually hit me that I was about to leave. And there were some tearful goodbyes, but now when I see them up close again, they’re very cheerful for me.”

While he’s yet to play a game for his new team, Ullmark feels like he made the right choice, and he’s been impressed by the B’s competitiv­e culture.

“It’s nothing that really surprised me,” said Ullmark. “It’s been a fun ride ever since I got there and I’m very impressed about how the guys go battle for each other every single day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a daybefore practice or day of (a game), every day there’s a practice, everyone goes to town and really wants to get better. And I really admire that from all the boys. It’s not just one or two guys. It’s the whole team that wants to make a name for themselves and push each other to become better hockey players and better persons.”

Foligno out tonight, maybe longer

Nick Foligno did not practice on Thursday and Cassidy ruled him out for today’s game against the 3-0 Sabres.

The coach said he’ll be reevaluate­d when the team gets back to Boston but that he expects he’ll be out for Sunday’s matinee as well.

With Foligno out, Cassidy said Tomas Nosek will most likely move over to the right side with Trent Frederic moving to center and left wing Anton Blidh drawing into the lineup. He has the choice of moving Nosek or Karson Kuhlman up from the fourth line to play on the third line, but said he really liked Kuhlman’s game on Wednesday beyond the fact that he scored a goal.

Cassidy said that he’s had discussion­s with GM Don Sweeney about possibly pulling someone from the Providence roster — the P-Bruins are close by in Utica on Friday — but as of now the plan is to go with the players they have on the roster.

Craig Smith was given a maintenanc­e day as he deals with something “minor,” said Cassidy, adding that he expects the right wing will be in the lineup today.

Swayman not rattled by outing

Swayman endured a night in Philadelph­ia like he had not seen in his brief NHL tenure, allowing five goals on 24 shots. He could have had a few of the ones that got by him. But Cassidy said the rookie seemed to be handling it with his usually aplomb on the day after the drubbing.

“Didn’t change a beat. He was out there working hard. He was out there getting his warmups with (goalie coach Bob Essensa), ready to go early, smile on his face. It was good to see. He’s not going to get too high or low. That’s important with that position,” said Cassidy.

“If he’s going to have any type of career in this league, he’s going to have games like that, when pucks just find a way through him. You hope they’re not that often. How does he bounce back from them, which will be the next test for him. We’ve talked about this, adversity, kind of the first game where he could probably say he wasn’t at his best of the 12 he’s played. We’ll see how he bounces back from it. Is it in his head or does he just put it behind him, learn and be better the next time? We’ll see.”

Ullmark’s advice to the youngster?

“The sun will rise up tomorrow. As it did. One of thew few times it actually did rise in Buffalo,” joked Ullmark. “He’s a good kid that doesn’t really care about win or losses. Obviously, we want to win every single game, but there’s 82 games in the season and we can’t go dwell on the past. Learn from it, enjoy the present and look forward to tomorrow.”

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 ?? MAtt stOnE / HErAld stAFF FilE ?? LIKE COMING HOME: Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark is scheduled to make his first regular-season start with the team tonight against the Buffalo Sabres, the organizati­on he spent nine years with.
MAtt stOnE / HErAld stAFF FilE LIKE COMING HOME: Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark is scheduled to make his first regular-season start with the team tonight against the Buffalo Sabres, the organizati­on he spent nine years with.

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