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Bruins Focus on Structure, Compete Level as Defense Corps Takes Another Hit with Krug Out

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON, Mass. - The Bruins’ blueline is already without Zdeno Chara, sidelined for four to six weeks by a left knee injury, and Kevan Miller, out indefinitely with a dislocated right shoulder.

On Wednesday morning, General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that Torey Krug will miss two to three weeks with a broken finger.

Krug sustained the injury in Tuesday night’s game against Minnesota on his final shift, after taking a slash.

For reinforcements, the Bruins called up David Warsofsky and Joe Morrow from Providence to travel with the team to Buffalo in advance of Thursday’s matchup with the Sabres. Zach Trotman also remains with the team.

“I mean, if we sat here in August and said this is what was going to happen to the D corps here, I think we would have all been shaking our heads,” Warsofsky said before flying to Buffalo with the team. “So it’s a little bit different, but for me, it’s an opportunity and that’s how I’m looking at it, just to take advantage of it.”

Once again, the Bruins will need to rely on their defensive structure, operating as one unit with support all over the ice. This won’t just fall on the defense.

“For us, with our system, it’s about not just about the defensmen, but really the whole aspect of all the guys on the ice and playing a good system,” Patrice Bergeron said following Wednesday’s practice. “And that’s what we need to have.”

The Bruins’ third period collapse to Minnesota in a 4-3 loss, letting in three goals in the final 20 minutes, further showed the struggles this group has had to start the season, following up strong efforts with ones that aren’t quite hitting the mark.

The team had responded with a 4-1 win in Toronto in the previous game, after the extent of Chara’s injury had been revealed. They played simple, and they competed. They didn’t carry that into Tuesday’s game.

“Right now, there are two things we can control, and that is respecting our structure and our compete level,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “If we take care of those two things, we can survive this.”

“And I think that’s what we’ve got to look at right now, those two areas and obviously our compete level wasn’t good enough [against Minnesota] and our structure wasn’t where it should of been, with goals against.”

“So we just need to understand that no matter who’s in the lineup, it really doesn’t matter. If you play together as a team and respect your structure and compete hard, you give yourself a chance, so we’ve just got to understand that, and move forward.”

The young players help to simplify the game.

“I’ve only played a handful of games. Joe, Seth [Griffith], Trots, we’ve all only played a handful of games, so all of our mentality is to come up here, keep it simple, stick within the outline of the team and our identity, and help out this team the best we can,” said Warsofsky.

Towards the end of Wednesday’s practice, Assistant Coach Doug Houda, the leader of the B’s defense corps, huddled the group together with Tuukka Rask after a drill in a ‘D’-only meeting.

“The game of hockey’s a lot easier when you’re talking,” said Warsofsky. Though there are young faces, the defensmen are all familiar with one another, all comfortable with each other.

“That’s a big thing, when you’re comfortable with the people you’re playing with, you have the confidence to talk to them, and it definitely makes the game a lot easier.”

Most importantly, it makes the game easier on Rask.

During practice, Warsofsky was mostly paired with Trotman, Matt Bartkowski with Adam McQuaid, and Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton remained together for the most part, prepping for their role of continuing to eat up Chara’s minutes.

Warsofsky and Trotman spent last year and the beginning of this year together in Providence.

With Krug out, Warsofsky may slide into the blueliner’s spot on the power play, like he did during the preseason when Krug was unsigned.

“That’s where we kind of looked at him, when Torey wasn’t here,” said Julien. “So he’s been that in Providence, we used him there when we called him up last year and to me, he’s capable of to a certain extent, doing that job.”

While defensemen like Warsofsky, Trotman and Morrow didn’t think that they would be getting time in Boston this early in the season, they’re going to be relied upon to step in, respect the game plan, and help the Spoked-B through this.

“I think David put a lot of pressure on himself at training camp because he was not the player that we’d seen before and had seen play in Providence, so hopefully he’s a bit more relaxed and comes in here and plays the way we know he can,” said Julien.

While the defense is facing adversity, the Bruins’ consistency up front has taken a step back as well. Outbattled in Tuesday night’s game, Julien switched lines up for Wednesday’s skate, breaking up Patrice Bergeron’s line.

Reilly Smith and Simon Gagne swapped spots, with Smith skating on the fourth line alongside Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell. Chris Kelly moved up to play with Bergeron and Gagne. Brad Marchand played with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, until leaving practice after “tweaking something” according to Julien, who was hopeful he’d be ready for Thursday night’s game in Buffalo. With that, Matt Fraser slid into Marchand’s pot for the duration of practice.

Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Seth Griffith - who factored into all three goals in Tuesday’s loss to the Wild - were the only three that remained together.

But whether it's up front, or on the back end, Julien is still focusing on the two aspects he wants to see - structure and compete level.

“I’m looking at the things I talked about and we’re still, as a team, looking a little bit for its identity as a group because every time you think you’ve stabilized yourself, now you’ve got more injuries,” Julien said. “So we go back to where we were in the beginning, with guys in different places, and unfortunately, it’s all in the same position.”

“So it represents a bit of a challenge, but it doesn’t mean it’s a crutch. It’s an opportunity for others. And, again, when you rely on your structure, and believe in it - and our guys believe in it, they have for years - you’ve just got to rely on that, and go out there and compete hard.”

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