BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward Gregory Campbell broke his right fibula Wednesday night, blocking a slap shot from Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. Campbell is out for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That's the bad news -- and it is extremely bad news for a team that is the spitting image of Campbell's tenacity and grit.
"That's the way he is," said Boston center Patrice Bergeron, who scored the winning goal to end Game 3 in double overtime, 2-1 in favor of the home team. "He sacrifices the body always for the team, for the better of the team. Obviously, we tried to rally behind that and do it for him because he's a big part of our team on and off the ice."
The good news is that Boston won the game in which Campbell was injured to put the Penguins on the brink of elimination in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final. Boston needs to win one of the next four games, beginning Friday with Game 4 at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons.
That cushion gives Boston coach Claude Julien a bit of wiggle room as he tries to figure out how to reshuffle his roster to cover for the hole created by Campbell's absence.
Despite his status as a fourth-line player, it is a big hole to fill for the Bruins. Boston has had the best fourth line in this tournament; it was one of the major difference-makers in the second-round series against the New York Rangers. Plus, Campbell is a fixture on the Boston penalty kill, which has been lights-out this series, holding a potent Pittsburgh power play to no goals in 12 opportunities, including six Wednesday night.
Now, the heart and soul of that line is on crutches, making the line far less effective no matter who comes into the lineup for Game 4.
The reality was there in Game 3. Campbell had played 10 shifts by the time he was injured 12 minutes into the second period. Several of those shifts were on the penalty kill, and the fourth line had played less than four minutes as a unit. After the Campbell injury, the unit effectively ceased to exist.
Shawn Thornton finished with 3:56 of ice time in a game that went more than 90 minutes. Daniel Paille played a bit more -- he finished with 16:11 of ice time -- but was not used in a regular rotation.
Essentially, the Bruins were forced to go to a three-line rotation much earlier than was ideal, putting additional stress on the other forwards as the game dragged from Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
"We would have probably shortened our bench eventually as the game went on, but unfortunately had to do that a little earlier than we wanted to," Julien said. "You get to the point where a player has been sitting for a while, it's pretty tough to put him back in. You know, it's just one of those things where it's tough for our players to have to play almost two full overtime periods with a short bench, but like I said, we found a way, and got to give the guys credit for that."
Now they have to find a way to move forward in the playoffs without one of their best penalty killers and a key faceoff man. They do have a few options.
The team also has veteran Jay Pandolfo, who excels at the defensive game but does not have the speed or faceoff ability of Campbell.
Swedish rookie Carl Soderberg is a center, like Campbell. But he has six games of NHL experience and none have come in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Generally, Julien prefers experience over anything else in the playoffs.
The answer to what Julien might do will start to play out Thursday when the Bruins return for practice in preparation of Game 4.