BOSTON — The Bruins will be without a key leader moving forward for the 2015-16 season.
Chris Kelly sustained a left femur fracture just 1:40 into the first period against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden on Tuesday night and was transported to Mass General Hospital, as said in a statement from General Manager Don Sweeney.
Kelly is set to undergo surgery on Wednesday, Nov. 4 and is expected to miss between six and eight months.
The solemn news came during the third period, when the Bruins were down 5-2 to the Stars before they ultimately fell 5-3. Their record at home dropped to 1-4-1 and the loss snapped a four-game win streak.
The loss of Kelly, though, will be felt far beyond the Bruins’ Tuesday defeat to Dallas.
“Well, you hope we can someone compensate for his loss, but I think people are going to realize how important he is to our hockey club,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said following the game.
“And not just on the ice, but also in the dressing room. Around the team, he’s a guy that’s extremely respected by his teammates, and on the ice, he’s given us everything we’ve asked for.”
“He’s been moved around in all different positions, never says a word but just thrives on the opportunity to play in those spots that we’ve put him. So he was a very versatile player that we really counted on, so no doubt he’ll be missed.”
Early in the first period, it appeared that Kelly’s left leg buckled underneath him when he was trying to retrieve a puck near Stars forward Colton Sceviour in front of the Dallas bench. He immediately writhed in pain and pointed at his knee when the referees skated over.
The Bruins’ training staff tended to Kelly as he remained on the ice for about five minutes, with Zdeno Chara taking a knee by him. Kelly’s teammates and former teammates — Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza (with Ottawa) — leaned over the benches in concern.
Around 7:15 p.m., Chara helped Kelly to his skates and he was assisted off the ice and slowly down the runway by the trainers. The crowd broke its silence to give a cheer of support to Kelly.
“We will miss him, that’s for sure,” said Chara. “He’s such a valuable player and such a great guy to have in the locker room. Obviously he’s a leader and one of those guys that you can always rely on.”
“These things don’t happen very often, obviously, in hockey and when they do it’s – you saw he was in huge pain and it’s tough to see your friend and your teammate on the ice.”
“That’s really tough — he’s such a big part of our team, he’s a huge leader in the room and on the ice,” said Brad Marchand. “And he’s been playing really well this year. It’s very tough any time you see a friend and a teammate go out with an injury like that. It’s really tough to swallow, so it’s a big void to fill.”
“He’s one of those guys that brings a lot of stability on any line that he’s on… and the way that he handles himself and he shows up every night, every game,” said Patrice Bergeron. “So I’ve said that many times when you lose a key player like that — it’s about everyone filling the hole I guess and stepping up, and it’s no different this time.”
“But we’re certainly going to miss him and right now, we’re thinking of him and his family.”
This marks the first long-term injury of Kelly’s career. He had remained fairly injury-less throughout his time in the NHL until the 2013 lockout season, when he missed 14 games with a fractured left tibia. He then missed 22 games with a fractured right fibula during the 2013-14 season. He also missed the final three games of the 2013-14 regular season and 12 playoffs games with a back injury.
No matter what his injuries have been and however long he has been out, the Bruins have felt his loss.
“It’s tough,” said Loui Eriksson. “He’s a really good guy to have around in the locker room and on the ice, for sure. So it’s definitely tough to see that happen in front of your bench like that.”
“You definitely know he was in pain, because he’s a tough guy and I don’t think anyone saw he was in pain, so hopefully he can have a really good recovery here and get better.”
Kelly sets the tone in the room and on the ice. He holds himself and those around him accountable. He’s versatile, physical and hard-working. The Bruins’ leaders will have to step up.
“Well, that’s what we’re going to need — obviously we’re going to need those guys to step up and really do that even more than before, to compensate for his loss,” said Julien. “Again, he’s an important part of it, but it’s not just about stepping up and setting the tone, but also how much we’ve relied on him — penalty killing, he blocks so many shots, he’s extremely good.”
“You saw again, our penalty kill struggled [allowing three Stars’ power play goals] and so we need to find some solutions here, and he’s one of those guys that was offering us some hope in those solutions.”
“So no doubt we’ll miss him there and we’ll definitely miss his leadership.”