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: Want any cheese with that whine, Isles?

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Morning Skate: Want any cheese with that whine, Isles?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while trying to figure out when exactly I’m going to be able to go see the new Star Wars movie.

*The New York Islanders were crying in their beer over the fact that Brad Marchand side-stepped a suspension and claimed it was because John Tavares didn’t writhe around, kick and scream on the ice like a soccer player. The truth is the play wasn’t the kind of thing that’s going to injure a player under normal circumstances but was clearly a late, uncalled for hit. That’s why it got the five-minute major penalty and nothing more. Threatening to give an award-winning acting performance next time in order to try and get a suspension for an opposing player just sounds like crybaby soup from the Isles. Buckle the chin strap and get ready to play a contact sport next time, particularly if you’re Tavares, who was hacking at Charlie McAvoy’s legs with your stick like you’re Paul Bunyan chopping at a piece of wood. It works both ways, you know?

*The Winnipeg Jets continue to be one of the excellent, unsung stories of the NHL’s first half as they really take hold at the top of the Western Conference.

*Here’s a good piece on Jonathan Quick and what his good health has meant to a resurgent Los Angeles Kings team this season.

*Former Boston College standout goalie Thatcher Demko is way ahead of schedule in the Vancouver Canucks organization, but they’re not looking to rush him.

*Here’s a great video of a youngster playing the Star-Spangled Banner on the violin prior to a New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. Well done, young lady!

*Pro Hockey Talk as the details of the Ducks and Red Wings getting into a fight on Monday night ahead of the Bruins traveling to Hockeytown for a Wednesday night showdown.

*For something completely different: A list of the 10 actors who could replace Ben Affleck as Batman now that DC has given up the charade that they’re not intending to replace him underneath the cowl.

 

Spooner travels with Bruins but questionable for Detroit

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Spooner travels with Bruins but questionable for Detroit

BRIGHTON, Mass – Ryan Spooner has practiced in each of the past two days, but his status is still in question for the back-to-back Bruins games against the Red Wings and Capitals over the next couple of days.

Spooner has missed the past couple of games with a lower-body injury after playing in the previous five contests following a month-long layoff with a groin injury. The current injury is believed to be similar in nature to the original groin problem and that’s the reason the Bruins are treating it cautiously as they approach Wednesday night’s game in Detroit.

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“He’s practicing fully with the team, and the long and short of it is that he’s still day-to-day. We’ll decide [on Wednesday] but we just want to keep moving forward with him,” said Bruce Cassidy, who also mentioned that Kevan Miller was missing from practice to be with his wife for the birth of their child. “We’ve had a couple of stops and starts with him, so we’re going to manage it to the best of our ability so we’re moving forward [in his recovery]. He’ll travel with the team, and if we decide that he’s in the lineup [vs. the Red Wings] then Donnie [Sweeney] and I will talk about how that’s going to affect our roster.”

Spooner has played 10 games this season, with a goal and four points in the intermittent action. It’s too bad as Spooner has been pretty good when healthy and has played with speed and a higher level of competitiveness this season when he’s actually suited up.

The problem with Spooner’s return at this point, however, is that the Bruins have a third line of Danton Heinen, Riley Nash and David Backes that’s been gaining traction in recent days and had a monster game vs. Arizona last week. A return from injured reserve for Spooner would mean that the Bruins finally have to make a tough roster choice. Either put a player such as Frank Vatrano on waivers or send a young player such as Sean Kuraly down who deserves to stay based on his performance.

With Spooner’s status in question for the next two games, here are the line combos and D-pairings from Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with Tuukka Rask set to get the start Wednesday night in Detroit:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Bjork

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Vatrano-Spooner-Beleskey

 
Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Postma

McQuaid

 
Rask

Khudobin