MONTREAL -- There have been so many times in the past few years when the organizational blueprint for the Boston Bruins has been tested.
And seeing Johnny Boychuk, a veteran defenseman, being taken off the ice on a stretcher and transported to an area hospital during Boston's 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at Bell Centre, the Bruins' depth becomes crucial once again.
It's still too early to know how long Boychuk will be sidelined with what appeared to be a back injury. The good news was that he was released from the hospital and was able to return to Boston with the team.
"Definitely, it's going to be a little while before he's good to go," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I don't know exactly how much time, but the good news is he's coming back with us tonight and he'll be reassessed by our doctors back in Boston."
While Boychuk's injury will test the Bruins' depth, they will be in good shape moving forward, considering the great job general manager Peter Chiarelli and the hockey operations staff have done.
Currently, the Bruins have Kevan Miller, who was recently called up due to an injury to fellow blueliner Adam McQuaid, but Miller was a healthy scratch for Thursday's game. McQuaid, who is suffering from a lower-body injury, did not make the trip to Montreal and his status remains unclear.
If more reinforcements are needed from Providence, Julien is comfortable with the depth in the organization.
"We've talked about it all year and it's about using it when you need it," Julien said. "[Miller has] been good and [David] Warsofsky is down there and he's good as well. There are some players we feel comfortable with, if we need them, they can come up."
After Boychuk's injury, it was the fourth time this season the Bruins have been forced to play with five defensemen for the majority of the game. Torey Krug's ice time increased, as did Matt Bartkowski's. But Julien wasn't ready to blame his defensive corps as the reason why the Bruins lost Thursday's game.
"You look at Bart tonight, I think Bart skated well and we played with five and handled it well. Again, our whole team is really what we need to look at in the second period, as far as what's to blame," Julien said.
The organization's depth was on display during the postseason last year as the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. Boston was without the services of defensemen Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg early in the playoffs, so Krug was called up from the P-Bruins, while Bartkowski and Hamilton were also pressed into service.
The way those young defensemen played, the Bruins never felt the effects of losing a pair of veteran blueliners at the most important time of the season.
Current Bruins forward Jarome Iginla saw Boston's depth from the other side when he and the Pittsburgh Penguins were swept in the Eastern Conference finals last spring. Now, he's seeing it first-hand.
"That's a big strength of the organization, is the amount of depth," Iginla said. "The guys who can step into the lineup, but also the guys who are already in the lineup that can handle more minutes. We have a lot of young guys that are very good, very poised. Whether Torey Krug or Dougie Hamilton have to play a lot more tonight, or Bart, they can handle that. Millsey's come up and played for us, and defense is usually a position that the older you get and being a veteran is definitely a plus.
"It's a huge strength and hopefully Johnny won't be out too long. It is something, just being here a few months, being able to see all the depth is definitely a big strength."
Overall, the Bruins are one of the best teams in the league because Julien has the ability to roll four lines. He also has a solid defensive corps, along with one of the best goaltenders in Tuukka Rask. The depth has been one of the reasons why the Bruins have made two trips to the Cup finals in a three-year span. In order to produce another deep run into June this season, that blueprint will need to continue.
"Well, you need that if you consider yourself an elite team," Rask said. "When guys go down, you need guys to step up. So far it's been good. We've had some good guys step in for injured guys and it's a lot of credit for Peter and his staff to keep it going that way."
With the injuries mounting, they have to.