BUFFALO, N.Y. — Linus Ullmark’s debut with the Boston Bruins 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 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 on Friday night, after what had to have seemed to him like an interminable break since his last appearance in the preseason finale on Oct. 6, fans will finally get to see for real what the Bruins 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 Buffalo. “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 Bruins 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 day-before 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.'”

JETS: Winnipeg center Mark Scheifele was placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol Thursday and sat out the Jets’ home opener against the Anaheim Ducks.

The team said Scheifele tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday morning, but was asymptomatic. He had a negative test and would have been cleared to play Thursday night against Anaheim if he had another negative test before the game started. Scheifele is the second Winnipeg player to test positive for COVID-19 this week after captain Blake Wheeler was put in league protocol Monday with the team in Minnesota prepping to take on the Wild.

DEVILS: New Jersey center Jack Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL draft, has a dislocated left shoulder and will be sidelined indefinitely.

The Devils placed Hughes on injured reserve Thursday. They said he won’t need surgery at this time and he has started physical therapy. He will be re-evaluated next week.

WEDNESDAY GAMES

CAPITALS 4, DEVILS 1: Daniel Sprong set up the Capitals’ first goal and scored on a second-period breakaway as Washington beat New Jersey.

Anthony Mantha, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored as the Capitals (3-0-1) handed New Jersey (2-1) its first loss. Alex Ovechkin had his three-game goal streak snapped but he had an assist on Orlov’s goal.

BLUE JACKETS 3, ISLANDERS 2: Patrik Laine scored at 1:49 of overtime to lift Columbus over the New York in Columbus , Ohio.

Laine’s wrist shot from the left circle sent him tumbling to the ice and beat goalie Ilya Sorokin.

Elvis Merzlikins made 28 saves as Columbus improved to 3-1.

HURRICANES 4, CANADIENS 1: Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored his first goal for Carolina in his return to Montreal as the Hurricanes beat the winless Canadiens.

The 21-year-old Kotkaniemi left the Canadiens for the Hurricanes over the summer after signing a $6.1 million offer sheet. The Finn was booed every time he touched the ice, let alone the puck.

With 10:37 to go, Kotkaniemi tipped in a shot from Brady Skjei to restore Carolina’s two-goal lead.

Sebastian Aho had two goals and an assist, Andrei Svechnikov also scored and Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen each had two assists.

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