BOSTON -- The Bruins are in the midst of a season-long injury plague, and there are no signs of it ending anytime soon.
Injuries to key players have hampered the team’s success, but somehow the Bruins continue to find ways to win. They’ve struggled with inconsistency the entire season, and there’s only one way to deal with the amount of injuries they’ve accrued.
“You don’t want to panic, and you shouldn’t panic to start with,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “But you don’t want to show panic because players can read off management and coaches very easily. Right now, we feel we still have people we can put in place that will continue to keep us competitive, and I don’t think we’ve been wrong so far.
“With everything we’ve been through, we’re not happy with our game. We’re not standing here saying, ‘We’re playing great hockey.’ But we are showing a lot of character by hanging in there and winning hockey games, such as the one [Tuesday] night.”
Defenseman Kevan Miller was activated from IR on Tuesday and was a healthy scratch, but since McQuaid suffered his injury during a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues, Miller likely will return to the lineup.
Fellow defenseman Torey Krug suffered a nasty broken pinky finger and needed upward of 30 stitches to zip up his finger. Fortunately for the Bruins, he only missed four games. Even when the Bruins summoned reinforcements from Providence, defenseman David Warsofsky suffered a groin injury.
The Bruins received a shot in the arm when Krejci returned to the lineup Tuesday night. More importantly, it was a sigh of relief for the team when he practiced Wednesday morning.
Marchand remains day-to-day, and he could practice on Thursday before the team travels to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets Friday night. Chara is progressing in his rehab but he hasn’t been cleared to skate, which still could be a while.
Then Dougie Hamilton missed Wednesday’s practice due to the flu.
The challenge for Julien is to figure out ways to keep the team’s lineup fresh and productive. He’s always said he’ll get the most out of the players he’s given to work with, and he’s being tested this season.
“You’ve got to just adapt to those situations and try to fill in those spots. Just when you start getting guys back, other guys are going down. We’ve been unfortunate more than other years so far with those injuries,” Julien said
During Julien’s tenure in Boston, only the 2009-10 season rivals this one in terms of the number of injuries. During that season, the Bruins survived, finishing third in the Eastern Conference, and eventually lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinals.
If a team has to have injuries, it’s better to have them earlier in the season as opposed to late in the year with the playoffs approaching. And, when a team is dealing with numerous injuries, players try to put a positive spin on the adversity.
“The main thing is opportunity,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said.
That means the organization’s depth will be tested, and in the case of the Bruins, they’re exhausting their resources. Each time a player has been recalled from Providence of the AHL, he's made contributions, especially on the defensive end with Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman. Morrow has proven he can handle the NHL. He’s big, strong and reliable at both ends of the ice.
Lucic described the adversity as a rallying cry among the players. If younger players can contribute, it helps the team gain confidence no matter which player or players are out of the lineup. It also adds an element of assurance and helps invigorate the veterans.
If the Bruins can continue to survive all these injuries and stay in contention, when Boston’s lineup is healthy again it could finally find its identity.
“Overall, our record is pretty decent with everything we’ve been through,” Julien said. “Right now it’s about trying to get through this as best we can, and hopefully when our team is totally healthy, and we’re hoping it does get totally healthy, we’ll really get a good idea of what our team is all about.”
It might be early spring before that happens for the Bruins. But that would be perfect timing.