BOSTON - When the Bruins head out on their first road trip of 2016-17 to open the season in Columbus on Thursday night, Patrice Bergeron will not be traveling with the team.
The forward is out with a lower-body injury and is currently being evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
"You're missing one of your better players, so it's not an easy way to start, but it's reality, and I really feel that it's an opportunity, too," Head Coach Claude Juilen said following the team's practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Wednesday.
"We've been talking about having depth - let's use that depth right now, and if everybody does their job and plays the way we should, we can get through this."
Julien didn't rule out Bergeron joining the team later on the road trip, that will include stops in Toronto and Winnipeg after Columbus. He specified that it was a "minor" injury and not something major.
"We're confident it's going to be real short term," Julien said.
With Bergeron's current status, David Backes slid into his spot centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak during Wednesday's skate.
"When you put him there, you can still feel comfortable with him being able to play against some pretty good lines," said Julien. "So you're not starting a young player who lacks experience or maybe somebody who's not ready for that role yet. We're fortunate to have him."
Backes has been skating mostly on the right wing with David Krejci at center and Ryan Spooner on the left wing. His versatility will make it an easy transition back to his natural center until Bergeron comes back.
"We spoke a little bit to our depth in camp and the tough decisions that the coaches and management were forced with, with so many capable players, and now we've got to test that a little bit earlier than we would have hoped," said Backes.
"Would have liked to have been full strength to start the year, but hopefully he'll be back sooner rather than later, and we'll have to all pick up some of the load that he carries, which is a huge load for this team, but spread that over a few guys and we'll be able to manage until he gets back."
When Backes skated with Pastrnak during his first preseason game in the Spoked-B, the two had instant chemistry and combined for six points on the night. The bigger challenge will be quickly adjusting to Marchand's game.
"Playing with Marchy is going to be a little bit of a learning curve," said Backes. "He and Bergy have played together for years and years and years and we've got one day of practice together, so hopefully we can use hockey sense and communicate and get some instant chemistry and produce."
"He's a great player and it's nice to have the opportunity to play with him there, and hopefully it goes well," said Marchand. "He plays a hard game, he plays well down low and he makes a lot of really good plays in tight, so it will fun to play with him."
Austin Czarnik shed the red no-contact jersey for Wednesday's practice, and was back centering Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes on the third line.
The forward has been cleared for game action, after taking a hit up high in Saturday's final preseason game and going through the necessary concussion protocol.
"He's good to go," Julien confirmed.
"It was a good recovery for me. Really quick," said a smiling Czarnik, who was glad to not experience any lingering issues. "I'm thankful for that and just looking forward to this season now."
McQuaid, Miller Out on Back End
In addition to the update on Bergeron, General Manager Don Sweeney announced that Adam McQuaid is currently being evaluated on a day-to-day basis with an upper-body injury.
"He skated this morning on his own, we'll see how he progresses," said Julien, who didn't rule out McQuaid joining the team mid-trip.
The news wasn't so positive for defenseman Kevan Miller, who underwent successful surgery to repair a fracture in his left hand on Tuesday (Oct. 11). His expected recovery time is six weeks.
In their absences, two young right-shot blueliners in Brandon Carlo and Rob O'Gara will get opportunities to likely make their NHL debuts in Columbus.
"Both of those young guys are going to get a longer look," said Julien. "It's an unfortunate injury [for Miller] and we're fortunate to have players who have come into camp and done well enough that - they're not here by default; I really think they deserve to be here and now they have an opportunity to play."
"We don't like to sit young players out who could benefit from growing somewhere else, but right now, I see no reason why they can't play here, and time will tell whether they can last, or whether they can handle it moving forward, but I like the fact that they're getting an opportunity here."
Odds and Ends
With Bergeron day-to-day, forward Tim Schaller was recalled from the Providence Bruins and joined the team for the road trip.
When watching Thursday night's opener, don't be surprised if the lines end up switching around based on situations. With Krejci centering Spooner and Heinen - who is set to make his NHL debut - the experience isn't necessarily there, so Julien could look to his fourth line, with experienced players Dominic Moore and Riley Nash, to go up against Columbus' top players.
"You've got to try and manage it as best you can and sometimes you have to go game by game, who's playing well that night and who's got zone time," said Julien. "So this is where I have to be on top of my game, coaching wise."
Practice Groups and Pairings 10/12
White Jerseys: Ryan Spooner-David Krejci-Danton Heinen
Gold: Brad Marchand-David Backes-David Pastrnak
Gray: Matt Beleskey-Austin Czarnik-Jimmy Hayes
Merlot: Dominic Moore-Tim Schaller-Riley Nash-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Rob O'Gara
John-Michael Liles-Colin Miller
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin
PP1: Krug, Krejci, Spooner, Czarnik (in Bergeron's bumper spot), Backes
PP2: Liles, C. Miller, Marchand, Pastrnak, Beleskey + Heinen rotating in