The injury-plagued Boston Bruins had two things to hang their hat on in Arizona Saturday night. The first was their 2-1 victory over the Coyotes. The second was avoiding the injury bug — despite Steven Kampfer going down the tunnel in the first period — albeit briefly.
The Bruins should get some help on the back end soon with Kevan Miller’s possible return Wednesday in Detroit. Fellow defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Urho Vaakanainen joined the team in the Motor City for Tuesday’s practice. Neither will play against the Red Wings, but both could return as soon as this weekend.
Yet, with that step forward, the Bruins also took a stride backward with captain Zdeno Chara (knee) being re-evaluated in four weeks. As bad as that was, another leader will also have a lengthy absence.
Patrice Bergeron, who was on the receiving end of a reckless hit from Stars forward Radek Faska, will also miss at least the next four weeks with a rib injury. The Bruins’ alternate captain played through the pain in an admirable effort during the team’s gutsy performance in Dallas — a 1-0 overtime loss.
Losing a four-time Selke winner at any point of the season is tough. His special teams and even strength prowess is difficult to duplicate, let alone replace.
Without Bergeron — and Chara — the Bruins found a way to kill off the Coyotes’ final power play attempt to secure the victory. They’ll need more of those efforts from fellow linemates Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and the rest of the crew for roughly the next month.
“You can’t replace a guy like that,” head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters following Tuesday’s practice in the Motor City.
“5V5, shut down [you name it]. [We’ll really miss him] in 5V5 play and how much he’s able to kill plays and allow Marshy [Marchand] and Pasta [Pastrnak] to play their game and get going on the attack. That’s probably the biggest area we’ll miss him. Then you go to penalty kill the other night. The game’s on the line in Arizona — Noel [Acciari] came through for us, so that was good — that’s an area where he would’ve been out there. He’s our points leader on the power play. So [we’ll miss him] everywhere.”
The Bruins sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division entering Wednesday’s contest against their Original Six foes. Keeping pace with the Lightning, Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Sabres will be key during Chara’s and Bergeron’s absences.
Boston fared well during an injury-riddled stretch late last season that included a five-game stretch without Bergeron and Chara. Cassidy’s squad took points in four of those five games, going 2-1-2. That late-season run without Bergeron, Chara and other key players like McAvoy was a small sample size.
Getting behind the proverbial 8-ball is the last thing the Bruins need before Chara and Bergeron return. They earned a hard fought win in their first game without the two most important locker room presences. Sustaining that pace over a 10-plus game stretch is much more difficult, but impending returns for Miller, McAvoy and Vaakaninen can only help.
Here’s a look at the projected lineup for Boston’s Thanksgiving Eve tilt against the Red Wings.
Anders Bjork-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand-Joakim Nordstrom-Jake DeBrusk
Danton Heinen-Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson-Noel Acciari
Chris Wagner-Sean Kuraly-David Backes
Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller
Torey Krug-Connor Clifton
Jeremy Lauzon-Steven Kampfer
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