Bruins

Bergeron carrying the load for shorthanded Bruins, and it may prove too heavy

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Bergeron carrying the load for shorthanded Bruins, and it may prove too heavy

The Bruins continue to suffer through an unprecedented deluge of injuries, and that was once again the case when Bruce Cassidy ruled out both Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork from the first two games of their three-game road swing through California.

Perhaps they will be able to return against San Jose this weekend or will be ready to go on the night before Thanksgiving against the Devils in New Jersey, but that’s a different story for a different day. The bottom line is that the Bruins are missing half the top-six forwards they were counting on at the start of the season. Only Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and rookie Jake DeBrusk are currently playing.

That group has had exactly one game together this season when both Bergeron and David Krejci were both healthy, and that was a 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 19.

“I would really like to have all [top-6 forwards] at my disposal, and then we could sort it all out,” Cassidy said wistfully. “The message going forward is to play well and to play hard. Control the things that we can control like effort and execution. In terms of effort I think it’s been pretty good, but the execution is coming on even though it’s hurt us in certain games.”

The Bruins will have DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly, Jordan Szwarz, Danton Heinen, Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik all in their lineup on Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks, and expecting six rookies to help stabilize things on a California road trip usually spells doom. Certainly things will be helped by a potential return from Krejci over the next few games, but the Bruins are going to struggle to merely be competitive down so many players from their regular lineup.

Another less obvious consequence resulting from the injuries is the enormous burden being placed on Bergeron’s shoulders since he returned from his lower body injury. The 32-year-old has four goals and 11 points in 11 games, but he’s also averaging a career-high 21:28 of ice time per game and topping the 20-minute mark for the first time he was 22. Similarly, Brad Marchand is averaging a career-high 21:30 of ice time per game, which is two minutes more per game than he’s ever played in his NHL career. Perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Marchand is now banged up after being used so much, and the same fate may break Bergeron down again if the Bruins aren’t careful.

After all, it’s Bergeron and Marchand that play the heaviest of the shifts pulling massive weight at both ends of the ice while also playing in every situation against the other team’s best players. It’s a situation that Cassidy is keenly aware of, but it’s difficult to navigate while also trying to win.

It was watching Bergeron wear down under heavy usage a couple of seasons ago that spurred the Bruins to signBackes in the first place (and that certainly hasn’t gone according to plan, either).

“We’ve got to be careful because we play the next night [in Los Angeles],” said Cassidy. “You want to stay in the moment and you want to win games, but you also want to make sure you’re not overtaxing [players]. So how do you juggle all that? That’s the challenge that we have as a staff right now, and that’s what is in front of us.

“That’s when it helps when a guy like Szwarz comes up and gives us some good, solid minutes. That’s when it helps when a guy like Riley Nash has to step up in penalty kill, shut-down situations. Sean Kuraly, I think, has done a pretty good job. Earlier in the year he was having a tough time, but now he’s settled in, he’s giving us some good energy and has chances to score most nights. So we’re relying on those guys a little more than you normally would, and that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.”

“Careful” was the right word used by Cassidy when it comes to the heavy workload that Bergeron is carrying right now, and there’s really no other choice for the Bruins until the healthy bodies starting returning to the lineup. The question is just how much No. 37 is going to have left in the tank when it matters most at the end of season after doing the yeoman’s work in the first few months.

Morning Skate: Habs' slide hurting Montreal bars, too

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Morning Skate: Habs' slide hurting Montreal bars, too

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while Chris Kelly is Captain Canada.  

*It really has hit rock bottom for the Canadiens as the Montreal bars are struggling to draw paying crowds amid a lost season for the Habs. Sacre Bleu!

*Interesting piece on the IIHF beginning to sanction athletes for not properly accepting their medals in tournament play, whether it’s simply taking it off as a Team Canada member did this week or tossing it in the stands as one of the Swedes did after losing to Canada in the World Junior tournament a few months back.

*Peter Chiarelli finds himself answering a lot of questions after things went truly sour for the Oilers this season, and they look to be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline.

*This piece links Brian Gionta to the Bruins as a possibility as he comes back from his stint with Team USA in the Olympics. Frankly, I don’t see it.

*The Erik Karlsson saga has hit a fever pitch as teams are expressing their interest for the Ottawa defenseman, and trying to put their best foot forward for a multiple Norris Trophy winner/franchise D-man that doesn’t come available too often.

*Here’s a master class from Team Germany trolling the Canadians after their history Olympic victory on Friday.

*They’re asking whether the NHL has taken the bite out of Radko Gudas’ game after all of the suspensions. Shouldn’t we just be celebrating that this is what’s happened to be a hatchet man that’s just out there trying to hurt people. I say “good.”

*For something completely different: Maybe it’s just me, but it might be a tad too early to be talking about whether or not Alex Cora is a good fit as Red Sox manager. It’s tough to gauge during the “Everything is Awesome” spring training portion of the gig.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Miller replacing McQuaid in B's lineup vs. Leafs

Miller replacing McQuaid in B's lineup vs. Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins will make a switch with their defensemen group, but it won’t be to add newly acquired Nick Holden into the lineup.

Instead, Kevan Miller will draw back in for the Bruins after missing the past nine games due to an upper-body injury, and Adam McQuaid will be a healthy scratch after playing pretty well since his return from the injured list.

Holden will be a healthy scratch in his first game with Boston, as Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy starts to map out a plan with his newfound D-men depth ahead of the trade deadline on Monday afternoon.  

“It’s a game-to-game, day-to-day decision. We’ll get through today and then see what we’ve got,” said Cassidy. “[Holden] will get in there eventually. I just don’t want to pinpoint a date. [Miller] is in for McQuaid. Adam did a great job, and Kevan did a great job before he got hurt. That’s always a tough call when you’re playing guys that are healthy, but it’s a good problem to have in the long run.”

With a back-to-back situation in Buffalo where they play a second game in less than 24 hours, there’s every possibility Cassidy could opt for some fresh bodies against the Sabres after an expectedly hard-fought game vs. Toronto.

Other than Miller stepping in for McQuaid, the Bruins will ice the same lineup as they did out in Western Canada and will start Tuukka Rask against the Maple Leafs team that originally drafted him before trading him to Boston. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on the morning skate at the Air Canada Centre:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Spooner

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

 
Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller

 
Rask