BOSTON -- Even though the Bruins will be without forward Chris Kelly for the foreseeable future because of the broken left tibia he suffered Monday at Ottawa, Boston is prepared to carry on without its assistant captain.
In the team’s first game without him, which resulted in a 3-2 loss to the Penguins on Tuesday at Pittsburgh, Bruins coach Claude Julien had veteran forward Jay Pandolfo on the team’s third line along with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron.
Based on the Bruins’ morning skate in preparation to host the Florida Panthers tonight at TD Garden, Julien will use the same lineup. Still, Kelly will be missed.
“It’s unfortunate,” Pandolfo said. “He’s a huge part of our team and he’s a great leader in the room. All the little things he does on the ice, he’s a tough guy to replace, but when stuff like this happens, everyone as a group needs to step up and help out with some of the stuff he did.”
Peverley will serve as the line’s center, with Caron and Pandolfo on the wings. Kelly is the center on that line, but Peverley is versatile and very good at faceoffs, with a 62.2 percent rating (98-for-160).
“We’re lucky to have guys like Pevs, even [Tyler] Seguin, who have played center most of their career that can step in there and be comfortable in that position,” Julien said. “Pevs is going to have to fill some big shoes there with Kells being a real versatile center man that can do a lot of different things for our team.”
The Bruins’ decision to sign Pandolfo as a free agent on Feb. 12 has worked out.
"It did right from the get-go and that’s one of the reasons we signed him," said Julien. "We knew going through this grind the last two months we would need some players to step up, and some experienced guys would be pretty useful, so Pando comes in at a real good time.”
Pandolfo, 38, can kill penalties and is not a liability. Plus, his veteran presence helps both on and off the ice for the Bruins.
Julien likes to have those types of veteran players on his team because they’re so valuable. Late last season it was Brian Rolston, and for the previous three seasons it was Mark Recchi. Now Pandolfo fills that role.
“Besides the experience that we always talk about, they’ve been around the block a few times; it’s also the wisdom in the dressing room,” explained Julien. “When guys are panicking, they can settle them down. When guys are too settled, maybe they crank them up a bit. They seem to know what buttons to push in the dressing room.
"Coaches do a certain job, but you don’t underestimate what players can do in the dressing room just amongst themselves. Guys like that are pretty valuable, especially as you get deeper into the season.”