Bruce Cassidy returns to Boston to play NHL's 'best team right now'

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Cassidy returns to Boston to play NHL's 'best team right now' originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- How much does Monday night's game against the Boston Bruins mean to the Vegas Golden Knights players?

Well, they had head coach Bruce Cassidy lead the post-morning skate stretch. A coach leading the stretch? You don't see that very often.

When was the last time Cassidy did that?

"Ah, never, I don't think," he said. "It was tough getting down there with this fake knee and hip, but I made it."

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Monday night's matchup figures to be an emotional couple hours for Cassidy, who spent five-plus successful seasons as Bruins head coach before being fired in June. He quickly landed on his feet and was hired by the Golden Knights, who enter this matchup with the Western Conference's best record at 18-7-1.

Any extra juice for Cassidy entering this game? If there is, he's not telling us.

“I don’t play. I think players go through that a lot more," Cassidy explained. "I saw it with Jack (Eichel) in Buffalo. I see it with different players that go back home. I think with coaches, it’s a little different. You’re just trying to game plan and give them as much information as needed without overloading them. They don’t want to hear everything about Boston, we’re a pretty good team in our own right. They just want to hear the coach give them a plan on what’s the best way to beat them, and that’s what we’ll focus on.

"In terms of (extra) juice, we’re competitive coaches. We want to win every game, right? Most coaches when they go back want to put their best foot forward. That’s the way I look at it. I want to show, ‘Hey, we’re a pretty good team, too,’ and let the chips fall where they may."

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A diplomatic answer from Cassidy, but let's be honest: A win for the Golden Knights -- who could be without their best player in Jack Eichel due to injury -- that ends the Bruins' record-setting unbeaten start to the season at the Garden (14-0-0) would be a heck of a homecoming for Cassidy.

“They have the best record in the NHL. Your record is what your team is, so we’re playing the best team right now that’s out there," Cassidy said.

"Once the game is over, we’ll see where we need to be better and see where we’re good. That’s the way I look at it with teams like Boston, New Jersey, we played Seattle, who’s playing well, go right down the list. It’s early in the year to say ‘measuring stick game’ so to speak, but I think it’s a fair statement to say that."

Cassidy has brought 'fresh voice' to first-place Golden Knights

The Golden Knights are no strangers to milestone games and meaningful homecomings. They defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime on the road Nov. 8 in what was the 700th career game for both Reilly Smith and Alec Martinez. Two days later, Vegas defeated the Buffalo Sabres 7-4 in Eichel's second game back where he began his NHL career.

The Golden Knights are hoping for a similar outcome Monday with Cassidy back in the building where he nearly won the Stanley Cup in 2019 and has a lot of great memories.

"We’re a close-knit group," Smith said of the Golden Knights. "We like playing for each other. Genuinely like spending time with each other at the rink and away from the rink. When there’s a big milestone game, I think everyone comes together, and this will be another one for our group."