BOSTON - Just as the Bruins appeared to be approaching a fully healthy lineup, they suffered another hit with the sour news on Monday morning that they will be without top center Patrice Bergeron for at least the upcoming road trip to Montreal and Ottawa.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said the team is taking a cautious approach with the 34-year-old, who has been nursing a lower-body injury that also caused him to miss two games last week.
"No timeline on it," Cassidy said following the B's practice at Warrior Ice Arena. "Similar [injury], same area. They think this is the best way to go for now…just want to make sure that when he's in the lineup he's not gonna put himself at further risk. Medical staff will keep on top of it and go from there."
The extent of Bergeron's injury, or what exactly it may be, has not been disclosed, though he did ramp it up slowly during training camp because of an ongoing groin problem that hampered him through last spring's run to the Stanley Cup Final.
When asked if Bergeron, fresh off a four-assist game on Saturday night, was considering a procedure similar to Penguins star Sidney Crosby - out six weeks after surgery to repair a core muscle injury - Cassidy said that he was not sure that the two injuries were relatable.
"I don't know what Crosby has compared to Bergy, to be honest with you," said Cassidy. "I don't know if it would require similar treatment to make it all go away or not. I haven't been in those discussions. To answer your question, no, [there hasn't been talk of surgery].
"Could that come up down the road? I guess it's possible. But I haven't poked my nose in that particular avenue of treatment. For me, it's been, we're gonna keep him off the ice certain days, other days he's full go. This time we can't play him like this because he'll just aggravate it."
Video: Cassidy talks Bergeron, lines ahead of Montreal
It goes without saying that Bergeron's absence is a massive one for the Black & Gold, who split games with Washington (shootout loss) and New Jersey (win) while he was sidelined last week. Boston was also without Bergeron at a similar point of the season last fall, when the pivot missed roughly a month from mid-November to just before Christmas with a rib/sternoclavicular injury.
"It's a player that's very hard to replace," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "He's been such a valued player for a long time in this organization. Hopefully he's not out too long and we can do well without him…it's challenging, but we have players that step up and do well and fill the spot.
"I think that the coaching staff is doing a great job managing the players in different situations that Bergy is always there. I think that's what we have to do now. We have to really step up."
With Bergeron out, David Krejci will fill in between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as he did last week and during last fall's extended absence. Krejci, who scored two goals in the final minutes during Saturday night's thrilling comeback win over Minnesota, has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in his last 10 games.
"A little more pressure defensively when Bergy's out," said Marchand, who was named the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday afternoon after notching seven points in three games. "You realize how good he is at both ends of the rink and what he does to shut down other teams' top lines…I find myself cheating a little bit more when he's out there because he's always in a position to cover up for everybody.
"It's just about playing the right way. That's what he does and what he shows everybody as a good leader. He plays the way that you have to to win. If we all do that then we're gonna be a tough team to beat."
Video: Marchand talks about Bergeron with media
To fill the hole in the lineup, the Bruins recalled centers Brendan Gaunce and Jack Studnicka from Providence. Gaunce, who joined Boston for last week's trip to New Jersey but did not play, has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 14 games for Providence this season. The 25-year-old also has 117 games of NHL experience, all with the Vancouver Canucks.
For Studnicka, meanwhile, it is his first career recall, setting up the possibility that the 20-year-old makes his NHL debut on Tuesday night at Bell Centre. Arguably Boston's top prospect, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Ontario native is leading the P-Bruins in scoring this season - his first full professional campaign - with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 21 games.
"He's been very consistent," said Cassidy. "He's been scoring a lot, scored a shorty the other night, so playing in all areas, facets of the game. Our concern with him when he left here for his first recall is how his strength is gonna be. We'll see. If he's the guy going in there, we'll find out. He's handled it well down there.
"When we look at Providence, we typically want to reward the best player. It's kind of been the philosophy…I've been told he's arguably their best player. Stay out of his way and just let him play and see where he's at."
Only one of Studnicka and Gaunce is expected in the lineup against the Habs, however, because of the return of Par Lindholm to practice on Monday. Lindholm sat out Saturday's win over Minnesota with a cut to his leg suffered last week against Buffalo.
"Lindholm will definitely be back in. His situation, he had a bad gash. If he needed to play the other night, he would have, but he was pretty uncomfortable and that's kind of settled down a little bit," said Cassidy. "He'll go back in and with the two forwards coming up, we'll definitely play one, but it's a little bit of if we have another injury while we're away, then we have another body with us and we have the roster pace."
Video: Chara talks with media after Monday's practice
Wait, There's More
- In other injury-related matters, Brett Ritchie missed practice on Monday because of a recurring infection issue and will not play during the road trip. "I think they're gonna look at a little more long-term, how to deal with it so it doesn't come back," said Cassidy.
- John Moore (shoulder) and David Backes (upper body) both practiced. Backes, who has missed the last 10 games, was donning a maroon non-contact jersey.
- Jaroslav Halak is likely to get the start in Montreal after missing a scheduled nod on Saturday because of an illness. Tuukka Rask, who has made three straight starts, would go in Ottawa on Wednesday night. "Tuukka's month is getting up there now and that's part of what we talked about in the summer, wanting to limit games," said Cassidy. "We have 11 games in  days, something like that. We have to be very careful on the splits here."
Monday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork - Sean Kuraly - David Backes
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
John Moore - Steven Kampfer