Bruce ready to leave Bent out against West Ham
Bruce will hand record signing Asamoah Gyan a first start for the club but whether that will come alongside leading scorer Bent, who took his tally for the new campaign to six for club and country with the late leveller against Arsenal on Saturday evening, remains to be seen.
Bent, 26, who now has 30 goals to his name for the club in just 46 appearances since moving north from Tottenham for an initial £10 million, could yet find himself spared duty with Liverpool and Manchester United waiting in the wings in the next two Premier League games.
Bruce said: "I don't think it's a rest - cotton wool comes to mind. I don't think it's a rest at this part of the season. Make no mistake, we have some people who need games - Bolo Zenden, for instance, is one, Asamoah Gyan is another, it might be a game to have a look at young Jack Colback - those type of people need a game.
"Darren wants to play in every game, but you want him playing against Manchester United and Liverpool. That's my fear, not resting him at this particular moment. He wants to be involved in every game, he wants to be involved and score a goal, that's Darren.''
Sunderland are once again proving redoubtable opponents at the Stadium of Light this season having faced both Manchester City and the Gunners already and emerged with four points.
By contrast, the Hammers will arrive on Wearside having won just once to date in the new campaign, their 1-0 second-round, extra-time victory over League Two side Oxford United. But they did return from Stoke with a first league point at the weekend and while they remain rooted to the foot of the table, Bruce has warned they will be no pushover.
He said: "You look at them and they have got an England goalkeeper, an England centre-back, an England midfield player and an England centre-forward, so they have got good players. We are playing against a Premier League team in the cup. We know they have had a bit of an awful start - anybody is capable of having a poor start in this division and West Ham have found that.
"But they will be looking to kick-start their season. I am more concerned about us and making sure we stay at the level we have seen over the last couple of weeks, especially at home.''