Bruins

Injury, illness and a possible suspension may leave Bruins shorthanded

bruins_brad_marchand_012417.jpg

Injury, illness and a possible suspension may leave Bruins shorthanded

BRIGHTON -- Thanks to injuries, illness and possible suspensions, the Bruins have several lineup question marks for Thursday night’s pre-All-Star game finale in Ottawa.

Both Patrice Bergeron and Noel Acciari were absent from practice on Thursday. Bergeron got the morning off after playing through, and scoring through, illness on Tuesday night against New Jersey, and Acciari was sidelined by a lower body injury that was also bugging him in the 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. Bruce Cassidy expects Bergeron will be good to go Thursday night against the Senators, but a banged-up Acciari is a bit more of a question mark.

"[We] hope [Acciardi is] ready to go," said Cassidy. "If not, then we’ll look to Providence (for a replacement) and that’s an internal conversation we’ll have to have."

On the other end of the spectrum, Brad Marchand skated Wednesday at Warrior Ice Arena but may not be available after a hearing with NHL’s Department of Player Safety concerning an uncalled elbow to the head of Marcus Johansson. At this point it feels like Marchand is headed for a suspension, so it’s a matter of how many games he’ll get. He's been fined or suspended by the league seven times before.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings at Wednesday’s practice prior to leaving for Ottawa:

Marchand-Postma-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Spooner

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Vatrano

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Grzelcyk-Miller

Postma

 

Rask

Khudobin

Zdeno Chara reacts to Tom Brady leaving Patriots: 'I'll always be his fan'

Zdeno Chara reacts to Tom Brady leaving Patriots: 'I'll always be his fan'

Zdeno Chara and Tom Brady both have been Boston sports icons for well over a decade. During that time, they've expressed admiration for each other's games and maintained a close relationship.

So when Brady left the New England Patriots to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month, Chara was one of many saddened and surprised by the news. Still, the veteran Boston Bruins defenseman remains supportive of Brady's endeavors.

Chara shared his reaction to Brady's departure Thursday on WEEI's "Dale & Keefe."

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

"I have to be honest, it was obviously a little mixed feelings," Chara said. "I was sad to see Tom leave. He meant so much to the Boston community, to the fans, to probably every little boy growing up.

"All these inspiring stories, and just a great example on and off the field. So yeah, it was kind of sad to see him leave Boston, but at the same time I’m very supportive of his decision and what he’s trying to go for, and I will always be his fan and his friend and wish him nothing but the best."

After Brady made his Bucs signing official, Chara bid farewell to the six-time Super Bowl champion with a heartfelt Instagram post.

Now that Brady is out of town, Chara is by far Boston's oldest athlete at 43 years old. Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is the second-oldest at 36. Like Brady, Chara doesn't plan to hang 'em up any time soon and doesn't have an age in mind for when he'll retire.

"I don’t like to put the numbers like that," Chara said. "You never know what’s going to happen. I want to play as long as I can and as long as I have fun and I love the game and I’m very passionate about the game, but we’ll see what’s going to happen."

Chara signed a one-year, $2 million extension with the Bruins last year.

Hindsight 2020: Bruins should've gone with David Backes in Game 7 vs. Blues

Hindsight 2020: Bruins should've gone with David Backes in Game 7 vs. Blues

Let’s preface this by saying that Bruce Cassidy hasn’t made many easy “second guess” moves in three-plus seasons of constant success.

The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of the four years that Cassidy has been the bench boss in Boston and players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have posted the best numbers of their NHL careers. The 161-66-34 record that Cassidy has compiled in Boston really speaks for itself along with the head coach pushing the Bruins to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year.

When it comes to questioning his moves, there aren’t many to choose from.

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But the one coaching move that this humble hockey writer never agreed with was the healthy scratch of veteran power forward David Backes for the final three games of the Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.

Well, not so much the final three games. It’s more like the final game.

Scratching Backes for the final three games against his old Blues team effectively spelled the end of his career in Black and Gold. It preceded this season when it was truly clear that his NHL effectiveness was at a conclusion and the Bruins needed to move out a first round pick just to get Anaheim to pick up his contract.

Obviously, Game 5 wasn’t the big moment to quibble with and in Game 6 things worked out with Karson Kuhlman scoring a goal while playing in Backes’ place in a 5-1 win over the Blues in the penultimate game of the series.

Cassidy went with the safe move of sticking with Kuhlman after the Game 6 road win over St. Louis with Boston feeling like it had the momentum going into a winner-take-all Game 7 on the TD Garden ice. It was tough to argue staying with the same lineup that won just a couple of days prior in St. Louis, but the Bruins clearly needed something a little different than what we saw play out in Game 7.

Backes could have been that something different that the Bruins were looking for when looking at the complete picture.

So what’s the argument to go with an aging Backes who had clearly slowed down last season at 34 years old?

Backes showed throughout last spring’s playoff run that he was very effective entering back into the lineup after giving his skating legs a few days’ rest. He showed that in the first round series against Toronto when his entry into the lineup was an early turning point with his physicality, experience and attitude.

Backes did it again in the second round vs. the Blue Jackets after several healthy scratches when he posted points in three straight wins over Columbus. Backes went scoreless in the first four games of the Cup Final against the Blues and finished with less than 10 minutes of ice time in two of those games, but he hadn’t played in eight days when the B’s and Blues met for Game 7 in Boston.

Once again, Backes could have injected physicality and attitude in a hockey game where force of will was going to be a difference-maker. Certainly, there’s a very easy argument to make that a former All-Star, Olympian and captain of the Blues could have done something in a Game 7 to make a difference as opposed to a player in Kuhlman who had just 11 games of NHL experience headed into last spring’s playoffs.

Instead, Kuhlman was an absolute non-factor in Game 7 in a game where the Bruins collapsed over the final 40 minutes against a St. Louis team that had worn them down physically over the course of the seven-game series.

We’ll never know, of course, if Backes would have made a difference between winning and losing. Brad Marchand made an awful call hopping off the ice at the end of the first period to set up an Alex Pietrangelo goal. Tuukka Rask was outplayed by Jordan Binnington, who stood on his head in the first period against the Bruins when it really mattered most. For the balance of the entire series, Patrice Bergeron was outplayed by fellow two-way center Ryan O’Reilly, and that was the case again in the decisive Game 7.

All of these things might have been too much to overcome when it was all said and done based on the way the entire series played out. But Backes was also an important, confident and vocal leader in the Bruins dressing room who walked the walk and talked the talk, and players like that can rise to the occasion in Game 7-type scenarios when given the opportunity.

Instead, Backes never even got a chance in Game 7 to put the final touches on his legacy, and the Bruins lost Game 7 on home ice with a whimper that won’t soon be forgotten by B’s fans.

That’s the kind of coaching decision that will be second-guessed until the end of time without ever knowing if it might have made a bit of difference.