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Krug: In Light of Latest Injury, Time to Seize the Opportunity

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — Just over two years ago, Torey Krug was in Providence, getting ready to board a bus that would take him to Wilkes-Barre to play in an AHL playoff game.

Then, he got a phone call from Don Sweeney. He has essentially never looked back.

Krug got his shot in the NHL because veterans like Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference got injured. He took advantage of it. Now, he is a core piece of Boston’s blueline.

It is never ideal when you get your shot because a teammate went down. But sometimes, that’s what happens, and always, it presents an opportunity that must be seized.

“[You have] to realize that at any given moment, opportunity is going to be there, and you have to make sure you go out and take advantage of that,” Krug said on Wednesday. “For me, I thought I was going to be in Providence for the rest of the season and go through a playoff run there with a very good team. All of a sudden, I got the call that I’m going to be playing against the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just like that, it changes.”

Unfortunately for the Bruins, opportunity knocked on Wednesday, when Sweeney announced defenseman Dennis Seidenberg will miss up to eight weeks with a herniated disc in his back.

“It’s unfortunate for him,” said veteran Adam McQuaid. “I know he worked really hard all summer to come into camp. He looked great, and unfortunately had a setback. But again, I mean, we’ve been talking a lot about our depth on the blueline this year, so [there] will be opportunities for other guys, and Seids will heal up and be back when he’s ready.

“Until then, we move forward.”

That is the only option: to move forward. And if there is any silver lining in this situation, it is that the Bruins entered this training camp with a plethora of young players eager to get a shot at cracking the NHL lineup.

Now, they officially have a shot.

“I think it’s important for me right now to focus on what I’ve got and make sure I do the best to make it work,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “That’s always part of the game, when you’ve got some players that [get] injured throughout the season. It’s unfortunate that it’s happened to [Seidenberg] at that time, but I’ll move forward with the guys that we have, and there’s a lot of guys that are eager to prove that they belong here. Obviously, that’ll give them a chance.”

As was the case during the 2013 playoff run, it is never ideal to lose a veteran, especially one like Seidenberg, who provides stability, composure and experience on defense.

“He moves the puck really well, and he’s a tough guy to play against,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s got that leadership back there and a lot of guys look up to him, including myself, so I guess we’re going to have to collectively pick him up.”

In 2013, the Bruins triumphed over the adversity. In 2014, when they lost key players down the stretch run, they managed to claim the Presidents’ Trophy.

They have been here before. They know what to do. Now, it is just a matter of doing it.

“We have a lot of players at this camp that can step up and play valuable minutes for this team and become big parts of it, so it’s about making sure we take advantage of that opportunity,” Krug said. “It’s one of the reasons I’m in this league right now, is because some of the injuries that occurred during the playoffs in ’13. You never want to see any of your teammates or your buddies go down, but with that comes opportunity, and we’ll see who steps up and takes advantage of it.”

There are quite a few options among the current crop of contenders at training camp. Among them is Joe Morrow, who got his first crack at the NHL last season, when captain Zdeno Chara went down with a knee injury.

He knows what it takes to seize an opportunity like this. He has done it once before.

“Regardless of injuries, you always see yourself as being a go-to guy and getting another opportunity, but you never want to see someone get injured as your way of getting a call,” Morrow said. “But yeah, you’ve still got to fight for it; there are a lot of other guys who can replace you as well, so [it’s] not necessarily the injury pushing me forward, but just the fact that there is only a couple guys that they’re looking to use in his position. That alone will get you through the next day.”

Last year, after Chara returned and the blueline got healthy, there was no longer enough room for Morrow on the roster. This year, for him, is about making enough of an impression to stick.

There is plenty of competition — more, in fact, than there was last year — but that has only created better results.

“When there’s that much competition, it makes you that much better and it prepares you for games in the beginning of the season and everything like that,” Morrow said. “So it’s been a lot of fun. Everybody’s competing really hard and they see it as their opportunity this year, and I see it as my opportunity.

“Everybody’s going to fight against each other but at some point, you’re going to have to play together. It gets pretty heated in practices, but it keeps things pretty fun.”

Thus far, camp competition has created an uptick in performance up and down the lineup. The four goaltenders vying to serve as Tuukka Rask’s backup have allowed a single goal through 120 minutes of preseason play. The defensemen in front of them have been solid, even as they cope with an adjusted, more offensive-minded system that allows for quicker breakouts.

Those players have no choice but to be great. If they’re not, they might be out of the running. It’s a high stakes game at Bruins camp this year, and no player wants to be the one left behind.

“I think guys are pushing,” McQuaid said. “Guys seem like they’re playing to their strengths and showing what they bring to the table, and that’s what you want in training camp. Even though it feels like it’s been going for a while, it has really just started, so [we] just look for guys to continue to do that and hopefully build some chemistry with one another.”

Julien said it: Injuries are simply a part of this game. They happen every year, to every team, and there is no avoiding them.

They are unfortunate, but they also create opportunities. It is up to the player to either take advantage of those opportunities or let them slip away.

“Now, there’s that time for guys to go out and earn the opportunity,” Krug said. “Nobody will be sitting back and scratching their head and wondering why [he] didn’t get that chance. So to have that competition for each of us to push each other and just make each other better overall will definitely be huge.

“I think for the young guys, just realize to always be prepared and be willing to accept an opportunity, but to not just take it — to absolutely go out there and earn it and work through it and make sure you take advantage of it.”

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