– When Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk
returns from the concussion-like symptoms he's suffered following a big hit from Ottawa's Chris Neil in Saturday’s game against the Senators, it’s going to be one crowded B's blueline.
With the acquisition of veteran defensemen Mike Mottau
and Greg Zanon
at the trade deadline, the Bruins roster will feature eight NHL-caliber D men – a situation Head Coach Claude Julien called ‘just fine.’
“They’re tough decisions to make at times, but as I’ve often said, I’d rather make those than have to make any decisions, and have people come in your lineup that you don’t feel as comfortable with,” Julien said after yesterday’s morning skate.
“Right now, we’ve got a lot of experience back there. Through some injuries I feel a lot more comfortable – if someone is not playing as well as they should be, then we got some options to put other players in.”
Generally only six defensemen will make the game roster, so when Boychuk is back the competition for a starting role is inevitable. But it’s healthy competition, according to Julien.
“Everybody’s been put on notice as far as that’s concerned,” Julien said. “There’s competition, and we got to do what’s best for the team. So it’s up to everybody to compete for their job and try to stay in the lineup.”
“If you want to be in the lineup, then play to stay in the lineup. If you’re not, then be ready so that when you’re called upon, you’re going to go in there and try to keep that spot.”
When the trades were made on Feb. 27, in the minutes leading up to the deadline, there certainly could have been a sense of urgency to ensure depth on the defense for the stretch run -- and B's General Manager Peter Chiarelli implied the inevitability of injury as the playoffs approached.
Furthermore, no timetable has been set for Boychuk's return. However, Boychuk skated by himself before yesterday’s practice – a comforting sign considering that was only five days after the hit.
“We find out the next day [how he responded to the test], and if everything is good then we move forward here,” Julien said on Wednesday.
However, Julien made it extremely clear that there is no rush to get Boychuk back in the lineup, and the situation is being handled carefully.
“It’s a day-by-day situation right now,” Julien said. “We saw what happened with Horts [Nathan Horton
] so we just got to keep our fingers crossed.
“We take the cautious approach to those kind of things – we don’t want to lose him for a long time because we took short cuts.
"But it’s going through the protocol and going day-by-day, so he’s feeling better,” he said.--- Anthony Gulizia