Charlie McAvoy was heading into uncharted waters in the Bruins’ season opener on Thursday night. He was playing without the 6-foot-9 safety net that is Zdeno Chara for the first time and, at the ripe old age of 23, he was suddenly the wizened veteran of his defense pair.

Oh, and he’s also expected to continue his climb into the upper echelon of the league’s defensemen.

Coach Bruce Cassidy said that the focus for McAvoy is to keep his own house in order before anything else.

“When we talked to Charlie it was, ‘Get your game in order first. Don’t try to carry the whole defensive corps,’ ” said Cassidy. “Some prominent guys left here. We understand that. We feel comfortable with the guys that we have that have been here. But you just have to play your game. Be a good hockey player for us, support your partner, especially if he’s a younger guy. That’s the ask right now. As we go along, we may ask him to do a little more. But so far, we’ve got (assistant coach) Kevin Dean back there and I played defense, we’ll take the coaching early on here and you take care of the playing.”

Brad Marchand said that McAvoy is a gifted player, but that the next step will be about his approach to the game.

“He has a different way that he thinks the game with how he transports the puck and how physical he is,” said Marchand. “I think it’s more understanding timing of the game, when to take those risks, when not to, because you mess up and they’re going to get a scoring chance. For him I think it’s just more of a mental game, bringing his consistency, all the time, every night. That’s the difference between the best players in the league and good players. They bring it every night, not just every now and then. He’s got to take that next step where he’s great every night. He’s got that ability. He just has to put it together.”

McAvoy is currently partnered with Jeremy Lauzon, who became an NHL regular midway through last season. But last year he was on a third pair playing on the right side. Now he’s on his natural left side, which should help, but he’ll also be going up against top lines now.

After a truncated camp with no exhibition games, building chemistry will be ongoing.

“I think we’ve started out in camp trying to build that. It will be a little different getting into a game situation but the trust is there, the confidence in each other is there,” said McAvoy. “He’s an incredibly hard worker. He’s a great defender and he’s really grown a lot with the puck, his confidence with the puck and his puck abilities. I’m really excited to play with him and I think we can feed off each other. We’ll learn and we’ll grow together. That’s really all there is to it.”

SMITH ON THE SHELF: The Bruins did not get to see what their biggest acquisition of the offseason can bring. Craig Smith participated in the morning skate but was a scratch with what Cassidy termed a lower-body injury.

“He tweaked something earlier in the week. He didn’t feel great waking up this morning so we’re going to have to see how he is. And if he can’t go, we’re going to have to shuffle some lines,” said Cassidy.

With Smith out, Anders Bjork bumped up from the fourth line and moved to the right side on the Charlie Coyle-Nick Ritchie third line and Trent Frederic slotted in as the fourth line left wing.

Cassidy said that even if Smith had been healthy, he was hoping to get Frederic into a game soon.

“I don’t want to call it a platoon, but it’s a situation where were going to use him. We’re not going to let him sit for extended periods of time,” said Cassidy.

Cassidy said getting defenseman Urho Vaakanainen into a game could be a little more difficult because all eight of their roster defensemen require waivers to go to the taxi squad. He also wants to give Lauzon and Jakub Zboril a chance to get their feet under them.

“We’re not going to judge a guy on week of training camp and one hockey game. We want to give them a fair look and a chance to succeed,” said Cassidy.

MARCHAND STILL MENDING: Cassidy said Marchand, recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery, would be a game-time decision. He had missed a couple days of training camp, but was in the lineup for the opener.

“It was more expected,” said Marchand of the days off he was forced to take. “I just started skating a little more recently and the first two and half months after we finished I couldn’t do anything at all. So I had a big build-up to get back to where I am. I’m still behind a little bit but I think with the way it ramped up so quickly and having a 10-day preseason, it would be a lot for my legs and groins and hips and all that. It was more just trying to manage soreness from coming back. It’s one thing to skate by yourself, but when the first time you’re skating with other guys is in training camp, that level is so much harder. I just had to manage it to make sure I could play tonight, because the last thing I want to do is go through camp and then have to miss games that I thought I could be ready to play. We’re here and I’m ready to go, so I’m excited.”

Center Par Lindholm cleared waivers on Thursday and the plan will be for him to either go on the roster or the taxi squad. He traveled with the team and went on to the ice at the Prudential Center once he cleared.

“That’ll be (GM Don Sweeney’s) decision how he manages the roster, but one way or another, he’ll be available to us as needed,” said Cassidy.

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