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As Injuries Mount, It's Back to Next Man Up

Like they did a year ago, Bruins embracing that mentality

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

OTTAWA - For the Bruins, it's starting to feel a bit like déjà vu.

Boston had its share of injuries to key players a year ago, but battled through en route to a 50-win, 112-point season, which left them just shy of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They reached those heights because they embraced a next-man-up mentality, never doubting their ability to claim 2 points, despite being shorthanded.

They will need to start implementing that approach once again.

The Bruins, losers of three straight, have already been without Torey Krug to start the season and will be down David Backes, Charlie McAvoy, and Kevan Miller for the second straight contest when they visit the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night to close out their four-game Canadian road trip.

"Injuries are gonna happen," said Noel Acciari. "It's a rough sport. We've just got to adapt. We have guys in the lineup and out of the lineup. But it's just next man up and that can't change our game. We have a style we need to stick to. And it will help us win hockey games."

McAvoy (undisclosed) and Miller (hand) returned to Boston before Saturday night's game in Vancouver, with Backes following suit on Monday in order to meet with the medical staff for further evaluation. The winger was on the wrong end of a high hit from Matt Benning in Edmonton on Thursday and has not been feeling well since.

Cassidy did not have much of an update on McAvoy, but reiterated his belief that the defenseman's ailment is unrelated to the procedure he underwent for an abnormal heart rhythm last January.

"I have nothing new, other than he's going through a bunch of tests and hopefully we get news on him back home [on Tuesday]," said Cassidy. "I don't believe it has anything to do with his heart. I think he's fine in that regard."

Video: Cassidy provides injury updates

McAvoy, said the coach, was disappointed to have to put his sophomore season on hold.

"That's part of it when you're not able to play, especially at that age," said Cassidy. "Obviously you have your family, but hockey becomes your whole life for the most part. Not married, no kids, stuff like that. I imagine he's a little bit down, but hopefully results come back and he's back and ready to go."

Miller, meanwhile, met with doctors back in Boston and Cassidy expects to have a further update upon the team's return from the road trip.

Krug Closer

There was some good news on the injury front, as Krug appears to be inching closer to a return to action. The defenseman, who injured his ankle in the final preseason game, was supposed to join the team for practice on Monday in Ottawa, but flight troubles delayed his arrival in Canada's capital.

According to Cassidy, Krug has skated three or four times since returning to the ice on Wednesday.

"He's gonna have to battle at some point. That's where you have to be careful, you don't want to re-inure a guy in practice," said Cassidy. "But don't forget, he missed all of training camp - he was with us the last week of training camp, played a game and a couple of shifts.

"It's like starting over again for him, getting the feel of jostling, battling for pucks - not just hitting, but the grind of every shift winning pucks. We'll have to get him up to speed."

Leaning Tuukka

Cassidy said after practice on Monday that he was "leaning towards" starting Tuukka Rask between the pipes against the Senators. Jaroslav Halak started the last two games to give Rask some more practice time to find his game, which Cassidy is hoping happened during a lengthy on-ice session at Canadian Tire Centre.

"We wanted to make sure he got his work in," said Cassidy. "I'll talk to [goalie coach Bob Essensa] and Tuukka, make sure he feels good physically, ready to go, good about his game. That's the way we're leaning, but it could just as easily be Thursday for him.

"The biggest reason we played Jaro the other day is we wanted Tuukka to get some practice time in. Today was a good one, so we'll see where he's at. I haven't talked to him."

Standing Up

Noel Acciari is a bulldozer. At 5 foot 10, 205 pounds, the winger has become one of the NHL's cleanest and heaviest hitters, landing check after check on opponents who are still trying to learn his name.

Yet, unlike so many others who play similar styles, he is not much of a fighter. But now in his second full season with the Bruins, that may start to change some, particularly with the lack of fighters on Boston's roster.

Acciari dropped the gloves for just the second time in his career on Saturday night in Vancouver, tussling with Bo Horvat after the Canucks forward dropped Joakim Nordstrom.

"Just sticking up for a teammate," said Acciari, who is sporting a small gash under his left eye courtesy of his visor. "I think any guy on our team would stick up for another. And if it kind of falls on me a little more so, I'm not afraid to. Again, I'm not gonna win them all either, I'm not a big time fighter. But I will to stick up for a teammate or to defend myself."

Video: Acciari discusses recent fight and lines chemistry

Dropping Down

Boston's top two lines will remain the same against the Senators, while Ryan Donato will shift down to the fourth line to skate alongside Sean Kuraly and Acciari.

"Ryan down on the fourth line is probably not where we envisioned him to start," said Cassidy. "But if he can chip in on the power play, get his game, those guys are straight-line players, maybe it will do him some good like it did Danton [Heinen] last year."

A look at how the Bruins lined up for Monday's practice in Ottawa:

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen - David Krejci - Jake DeBrusk
Anders Bjork - Joakim Nordstrom - Chris Wagner
Ryan Donato - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
John Moore - Steven Kampfer
Urho Vaakanainen - Matt Grzelcyk

Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

Video: Nordstrom talks on playing center

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