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Bruins Focusing on Team Effort in Toronto

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

TORONTO - The Bruins face off against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre in the first meeting between the two division rivals this season.

Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).

The Bruins are currently below .500, nine games into the season at 4-5-0, and are looking to bounce back from their 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night. Despite a losing effort in that game, Boston had a strong third period that they'd like to replicate for a full 60 minutes on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the Leafs have been waiting around for the Black and Gold since Tuesday, when they took a 5-2 win from the Isles.

Saturday night in Toronto is the first game Boston will play without captain Zdeno Chara in the lineup. Bruins General Manager announced on Friday morning that Chara is out four to six weeks with a left knee injury (PCL tear).

"It's going to have to be done by committee here," Adam McQuaid said following the Bruins' optional skate on Saturday morning at the ACC. "And if everyone just chips in and does what they do, and worries about that, that's all we can do."

"It's a great test for us," said Torey Krug. "I think everyone in here is excited about the opportunity to come together and put together a complete team effort."

"Anytime you have a big part of your team go down, the rest of the team has to come together and step up and fill that void, so it's a good opportunity for guys that maybe don't play those minutes and we're excited about the challenge."

With the Bruins holding an optional skate on Saturday morning (and, as a result, no pregame rushes with lines and pairings), it's not certain whether Zach Trotman or Joe Morrow will be the defenseman slotting in. Kevan Miller (dislocated right shoulder) remains sidelined and did not travel to Toronto.

Both Trotman and Morrow traveled with the team after being recalled from Providence on Friday.

It would be appear that Trotman is getting the first look, since he spent most of Friday's practice playing with Matt Bartkowski on the third pairing. Whether it's ultimately Trotman or Morrow in, the identity of the back end shifts without Chara.

"[It changes] a little bit. But we don't want it to," said Krug. "We don't want it to change the way we play the game. We respect our coaching staff's system they put in place, and it's for reasons like these that we do have that system."

"But Zee obviously communicates a lot, on the ice and he's a big talker on the bench, so we've got to make sure we're talking. No more quiet time for us, we've got to be ready."

"We're confident of everyone who comes into this lineup," said McQuaid. "So we just have to talk to one another, and make sure that we're being focused and know who we're playing with and who we're out against and just make that a main focus."

Chara the Ironman

With Chara's diagnosis, he could end up missing at least a dozen games. Most players (and athletes in general) face injuries throughout their careers. As is often said, "it's part of sports." Well, that's true, unless your Chara.

Prior to this injury, the ironman had missed just 20 of a possible 631 games since joining the Bruins in July 2006, prior to the 2006-07 season. Just 11 of those games have been missed due to injuries.

The other nine games have come from a coach's decision to rest Chara late in the season, and because of Chara leaving early for the Olympics to carry Slovakia's flag in the opening ceremony.

Here's a rundown of some notes jotted down before the Bruins' pregame skate at the ACC on Saturday (by using the Bruins' website, Chara's game log and a transaction history on TSN.ca):

-1,141 NHL regular season games
-11 games missed due to injury with Boston; 39 games missed due to injury overall (28 with Ottawa)
-Most recent game missed due to injury (entering Saturday night): December 28, 2013 in Ottawa (undisclosed injury; took part in pregame skate before it was deemed he wouldn't be available for game action, prompting Zach Trotman's whirlwind NHL debut)
-The Leafs have played a Chara-less Bruins before, back on March 9, 2010 in Toronto (lower body injury; the Leafs went on to win 4-3 in OT and Phil Kessel, without Chara's shadow, recorded an assist)
-Other games missed with Bruins:
    - 2 games missed in December 2011 (leg injury)
    - 5 games missed in March 2008 (upper body injury)
    - 2 games missed in January 2007 (lower body injury)
-Since 2000-01, Chara has missed just 49 games overall (39 due to injury, 9 as a scratch, 1 while serving a one-game suspension on Dec. 5, 2005)

Griffith's Game Accelerating

Seth Griffith is a calm, casual 21-year-old, who's been playing the role of the Bruins' top line right winger alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic.

Saturday night could be Griffith's first time playing at Air Canada Centre, which would be a pretty big deal for the Wallaceburg, Ontario native who grew up a Leafs fan (though he mostly went to games at Joe Louis Arena, growing up just over the border near Detroit). There's usually hoopla around hometown team scenarios like that, but Griffith isn't the type to draw attention.

Aside from scoring his first NHL goal in a comeback win over San Jose, there hasn't been much focus on the young forward, and he likes it that way. Heading into Boston's training camp, with attention on prospects like David Pastrnak pushing for spots, Griffith just continued working on his game. It paid off.

Through five games, he's picked up his first goal and his first NHL assist.

There are times when his inexperience shows, but for the most part, Griffith has quietly gone about his business, absorbing everything around him. Learning from Lucic and Krejci - not to mention Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron during training camp - has helped accelerate the learning curve.

For Griffith, it's been nice to not have that outside pressure. He was drafted in the fifth round in 2012, when the Bruins acquired the pick from Tampa Bay by trading away the rights to Benoit Pouliot. Before juniors, he was selected in the fourth round of the OHL draft by London. He only spent one season in Providence, before getting his shot.

Griffith's always been a quick learner, and he certainly doesn't mind being the underdog.

"I've never had anything given to me," he said.

Honoring Ottawa

The Canadian national anthem will be sung simultaneously in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal on Saturday night, with the Leafs, Senators and Canadiens all playing games. The pregame ceremony will honor of fallen soldier Nathan Cirillo and the tragic events that took place in Ottawa earlier this week.

It will be a highly emotional moment, and one that hits close to home for Claude Julien.

"I think it’s important and I certainly support the fact that they’re doing it. I’m from Ottawa, so it did hit home," said Julien. "I’ve seen it in Boston, so it’s not the first time I’ve experienced those situations. It doesn’t get any easier.

"I think it’s important to recognize our people for what they do and what they stand for. We have a soldier that certainly didn’t deserve that. Watching the news last night, seeing how people rallied around and stood by the 401 and the overpasses, it was really touching and I get shivers talking about it. Just shows the solidarity of people that believe in their countries and believe in standing together."

Projected Lineup vs. Toronto 10/25

(based on lines/pairings in Friday's practice)

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Seth Griffith
Brad Marchand
- Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly
- Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille
- Gregory Campbell - Simon Gagne

Dennis Seidenberg - Dougie Hamilton
Torey Krug
- Adam McQuaid
Matt Bartkowski
- Zach Trotman*

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg

Scratches: Matt Fraser, Joe Morrow

*Due to the optional skate, it's unclear whether Trotman or Morrow is slotting into the lineup, though Trotman spent most of Friday's practice paired with Bartkowski.

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