Injured Stars Set to Return for Bruins
By Steve Conroy
BOSTON -- The cavalry has not yet arrived, but it is coming ’round the mountain for the Bruins, to be sure.
Patrice Bergeron, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller all remained out of the lineup for at least one more game when the B’s played the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, but they’re skating and on the way.
And the most intriguing question facing the B’s and coach Bruce Cassidy right now is: What happens when they are finally at full strength? Cassidy, of course, is not about to divulge what may or may not be in his head right now for future healthy lineups. No need to break bad news to anyone before you have to.
The B’s have dealt with their bad problems -- the loss of their two most essential skaters, Chara and Bergeron -- pretty well. Going into their contest with the Ducks, they are 8-6-1 without both Chara and Bergeron. Some of those games they’ve also been without Miller, DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and John Moore. Not bad. But soon, they’ll have to deal with the problem of having a healthy team. Yes it’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
In the meantime, some of the players that have admirably plugged the holes have to continue playing without looking up at that Sword of Damocles that may be hanging over their heads. It could be a motivating factor for some bubble players, but Cassidy was more concerned with it going the other way.
“I hope they don’t overthink it, to be honest with you. Just do your job, do it well,” said Cassidy after the morning skate. “I think everybody knows that the players that are out -- Bergy, Z, Miller, DeBrusk -- those guys are automatics when they come back in. They’re guys we rely on to play heavy minutes and have a lot of responsibility. They just have to take care of their own business and we’ll see how it all plays out. I’m sure in the back of their minds, they could be thinking ‘I only have a couple more games to do my stuff.’ But some of the guys like (Colby Cave and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson) have been in for a while now. Hopefully they’re comfortable with that and they just do their job and control their own environment. That’s usually the message we give those guys anyway. Worry about yourself and what you can control. And if you get pushed out because better players are there, well, that’s the business sometimes.”
The decisions he’ll have to make with his forward group will be easy compared to the ones he’ll have to make on the back end.
Miller will presumably go in for Steven Kampfer on the right side, though Kampfer has been good. But on the left side, it’s a little trickier. Torey Krug will has a pretty good lock on a spot with what he means for the power-play and overall offense. John Moore, signed to a five-year deal in the offseason has had a couple of hiccups lately, but he’s been overall very good.
And when the season started, Matt Grzelcyk looked like he’d be the odd-man out. But he’s been very good for the B’s during the injury epidemic, averaging over 20 minutes a game and taking full advantage of his opportunity to play in all situations. He’d be a top-four defenseman on a lot of NHL teams.
For his part, Grzelcyk said he’ll be happy to have everyone healthy -- and it won’t do him any good for him to fret about what it could mean for him.
“When you start looking over your shoulder, that can definitely cause problems going into games mentally,” said Grzelcyk. “I’m just going into games making sure you’re mentally prepared and making sure you’re excited to go out there rather then being nervous and worried that you’re going to get taken out.”
It will be a luxury to have, one that could be utilized to fill some holes up front via the trade market at some point.
Considering he hasn’t had a full D-corps all season -- Krug was hurt to start the season -- Cassidy wasn’t going to run through his options just yet. He surely didn’t want to jinx himself. But he knows there could be a very crowded house soon.
“All I know,” said Cassidy, “is there’ll be two disappointed guys at the end of the day.”