CHICAGO -- Patrice Bergeron personifies the heart and soul of the Boston Bruins, and if his undisclosed injury forces him to miss any more playing time in the Stanley Cup finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Bruins will have an extremely difficult time winning.
If there's one team that can respond, Boston has the character and the personnel to fill the void, but it will be a challenge.
After playing only two shifts for a total of 49 seconds in the second period of Game 5 on Saturday night, Bergeron remained on the bench until the second intermission. He did not return for the third period, and midway through, the Bruins announced via Twitter that he had been taken to the hospital.
After the Bruins' 3-1 loss, Boston coach Claude Julien did not have an update on the forward's status.
"No update," Julien said. "There's no concern until you get an update. As far as we're concerned, he's just getting evaluated right now. Not much I can say on his situation."
It's not known when or how Bergeron was injured, and Julien did not want to disclose that information in case the team's assistant captain is able to play Monday in Game 6 in Boston.
"It's just an injury that wasn't able to let him finish the game," Julien said. "He may be in next game. I'm not going there."
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who finished with 29 saves, had some bold comments after the game in regards to the team's slow start in Game 5 and how it reacted to losing Bergeron.
"It's kind of sad that we've got to lose a guy like that to wake the team up and start battling out there," Rask said. "When you're in the finals and only play 20 minutes, it's not going to be good enough to get you a hockey game, so we have to realize that, and now we know we're going to have some new bodies and new lines on Monday and everybody needs to play 110 percent."
With Bergeron's absence, Julien leaned heavily on the team's top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton in the third period. That trio created chances, and it led to the team's only goal, on Zdeno Chara's slap shot, which beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford to the high glove side.
But without Bergeron, the Bruins were lost.
"Obviously it's tough," Krejci said. "You don't want to see one of your best players go down, especially this time of the year. We definitely missed him, especially at the end of the game when we needed to score a goal.
"It is what it is. I don't know how he feels right now or if he'll play or not, but we really need him. If not, we're going to try to do everything we can to get a win and force Game 7."
The sense in the locker room during the second intermission when the players learned Bergeron would not return was one of desperation.
"Obviously we knew after the second period, but we started to play," Krejci said. "We talked about going out there and just playing the game. When we were down 2-0, we were still getting some chances and we could have gotten some goals but we didn't. We stuck with the game plan, then we got a pretty good goal in the third period but we just couldn't get it done tonight."
At this point of the season, players on both teams are playing through injuries and discomfort. The Bruins are already without energy-line center Gregory Campbell, who suffered a broken right fibula in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and his absence has affected the Bruins' lineup.
If Bergeron can't play, the Bruins lose the top faceoff man in the league and potentially suffer in terms of puck possession. Other aspects of the game will be hindered, including the Bruins' special-teams play.
Since the Blackhawks now have a 3-2 series advantage with Game 6 on Monday in Boston, the Bruins can't focus on whether or not Bergeron will be out of the lineup.
"There's nothing we can do about it; we have to move on," Rask said. "We have to trust the guys who will step in."
During Bergeron's absence in Game 5, Julien inserted Carl Soderberg onto the team's second line as the center between Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr. It was Soderberg's NHL playoff debut, and he hadn't played since April 28.
"I thought we could use him, and although he had very limited experience in this league, he's still a pretty skilled player and had a good year," Julien said. "I thought if we were going to give him a shot, tonight was probably a good time for it.
"He showed me enough to be able to move into Bergy's spot. I thought he played well, and although there wasn't maybe the chemistry that you see with that line usually because it's his first time. I'm certainly not disappointed in the way he played tonight."
This isn't the first time the Bruins have suffered a significant loss to their lineup. In 2011, top forward Horton suffered a concussion when he was on the receiving end of a vicious late hit by the Vancouver Canucks' Aaron Rome in Game 3 of the Cup finals, and he missed the remainder of the series.
The Bruins rallied and beat the Canucks in seven games to hoist their first Stanley Cup in 39 years.
If Bergeron is unable to play in Game 6 or Game 7, Boston will need to rely on other players like the team has so many times in the past.
According to ESPN Stats & Information's Mark Simon, Bergeron missed a total of six games this season due to a concussion, and the Bruins were 3-3 in those games and outscored opponents 16-14. In four of the six games, they were held to two goals or fewer.
"You can't replace a guy like that," Bruins forward Rich Peverley said. "He's one of the best players in the league at what he does, and obviously we'll need other guys to step up. We'll figure out where everything is tomorrow, and we'll prepare, prepare to win the game whichever way we have to."