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Down Both Millers, B's Blue Line Depth Will Be Tested

Liles says it's "next man up" on the back end

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - During last week's lengthy road trip, the Bruins carried eight healthy defensemen on the roster, with the return of John-Michael Liles from a concussion bringing Boston's back end back to full strength for the first time in over a month.

But Boston's depth will be tested, once again, with the Bruins' blue line suddenly down two defensemen.

Colin Miller has missed the last two games after suffering a lower-body injury in Boston's win over St. Louis last Thursday, while Kevan Miller left Saturday's game after taking a hit from behind into the boards from Philadelphia forward Jakub Voracek.

Coach Claude Julien said on Sunday that Kevan Miller suffered a concussion, which will keep him out while he goes through the league's concussion protocol.

"It's next man up. That's kind of how it's been all year," John-Michael Liles said after Sunday morning's practice at Warrior Ice Arena. "I was out for six weeks. Zee was out for a bit of time, Quaider was out early in the year, Kevan Miller was out early in the year.

"We've definitely had our fair share of injuries on the back end and I think that speaks to the depth that we have, not only here but some of the guys that have plugged in and come up from Providence.

"We've all kind of played with each other in different roles or different situations in a game. I think everybody's comfortable in that."

The Bruins have used 10 defensemen this season, including Matt Grzelcyk and Rob O'Gara, who are both back in Providence after short stints with the big club.

"I don't think anybody's well equipped for losses, but the thing is we have players that we we've got some depth in that position," said Julien. "So far, we'll knock on wood that it's still good, we still have enough here to get through and hopefully we'll have some guys back sooner than later."

With both Millers sidelined, Joe Morrow - a healthy scratch for every game since Dec. 12 in Montreal - is likely to return to the lineup.

"I try and stay in the best shape I can, practice every day. The hockey aspect of things isn't too far away from me. I haven't played in a game for a long time, so I feel like those mistakes will kind of be inevitable. I'm just going to focus on if I make a mistake, I'm going to play hard and keep it simple."

Opposing View: New York Islanders

Fresh off one of their best performances of the season, a 6-3 win over the Flyers on Saturday at TD Garden, the Bruins will be back at it for another matinee Monday afternoon against the Islanders (1 p.m. EST, NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub).

Boston, which is now 3-1-1 over its last five, will be looking to avenge a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Isles back on Dec. 20 at TD Garden, during which Thomas Greiss made 48 stops for New York. The Bruins outshot the Islanders, 50-20, and fell into an early three-goal deficit.

The Islanders suffered a 7-4 loss to Carolina on Saturday and have dropped five of their last seven, since a three-game winning streak that started with their win against the Bruins just before Christmas.

Islanders captain John Tavares, who tallied his 500th career NHL point against Florida on Friday night, leads the team with 16 goals and 32 points this season. Josh Bailey sits in second with 28 points (five goals, 23 assists).

The Islanders are 10th in the league in goals per game (2.80) and 27th in goals allowed per game (3.05). Their power play ranks 26th (14.0%), while their penalty kill come in at 21st (79.7%).

Finding Their Scoring Touch

Boston has scored 19 goals over its last five contests, an average of just under four goals per game. The Bruins are thrilled to see the puck finally hitting the back of the net, after struggling for much of the season to cash in on their opportunities.

"It's nice to be rewarded for what we've been talking about for a long time, creating scoring chances and, for the longest of time, not being able to capitalize," said Julien. "Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, sometimes you need some breaks and sometimes you line up your shot a little bit better. Things are starting to go in more."

Video: B's offense heating up over last five games

The Bruins' power play has also begun to click, with Boston tallying two goals on the man advantage on Saturday afternoon. The B's have now scored at least one power-play goal in nine of their last 12 games. During that span Boston is 11 of 42 (26.2%).

"First of all, [we're] not forcing plays," said Patrice Bergeron, who has notched four goals and four assists over his last nine games. "That was what we talked a lot about, try to play a simple power play, put the puck on net, get some rebounds and find loose pucks in the corner and stuff like that.

"I think we've been battling a lot better, finding those pucks and not having to chase or skate all the way down twice which helps a lot. We're doing a lot more of that, being smarter and simpler in our game. That's been paying off."

Beleskey on the Road to Recovery

Matt Beleskey participated in Sunday morning's practice after returning to the ice on Friday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Buffalo on Dec. 3. The winger said he is feeling good, but is still about a week away from getting back into a game.

"I think it's kind of tough with the schedule, we don't really have too many hard practices with the whole team. I don't know, hopefully a week or so with no setbacks, but we'll see how it feels," said Beleskey, who has two goals and three assists in 24 games this season.

The last six weeks have been tough for Beleskey, who has often been the only player at the practice facility with the team out on the road.

"It's kind of hard when you come to the rink, guys are gone, you're just here by yourself," said Beleskey. "It's good to see some faces and be around the team. The healing process went pretty well, the trainers did a great job."

Lining It Up

Here is the projected lineup for Monday's game against the Islanders, based on Sunday's practice:

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano - David Krejci - David Backes
Tim Schaller - Ryan Spooner - Riley Nash
Anton Blidh - Dominic Moore - Austin Czarnik

Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles - Joe Morrow

Tuukka Rask
Zane McIntyre

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