RALEIGH, N.C. - Bruins winger Chris Wagner has returned to Boston for further testing and will not play in Thursday night's Game 4, coach Bruce Cassidy announced following Wednesday afternoon's practice at PNC Arena.
Wagner blocked a Justin Faulk slap shot with his right forearm in the closing minutes of the Bruins' 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 on Tuesday night and was seen wearing a sling following the game.
The loss of the tenacious winger is a tough blow for the Bruins, who have received some vital contributions from the fourth line throughout the postseason. Wagner had two goals over the first three games of the Eastern Conference Final, including the game's opening tally on Tuesday night.
"He's always gonna bring tenacity, grit, physicality. He's added to our penalty kill. He's actually chipped in offensively for us, he's got two goals this series," said Cassidy. "A big one the other night. I think the first one was obviously late in [Game 1], but a good energy guy. You know what you're gonna get out of him every night. We'll miss him."
Video: Cassidy talks lineup with Acciari in
Wagner's sacrifice - a la Gregory Campbell suffering a broken leg blocking a shot during the Eastern Conference Final in 2013 - was much appreciated in the Bruins' dressing room.
"You never want to see injuries like that, but that's a testament to him and what he's willing to give for this team and block a shot like that. That gets us fired up. It's the little things. They add up," said Charlie Coyle. "That's a big loss for us. He's been such a great player and he brings so much on that fourth line….they create such good energy for us and they've gotten us into games and had some huge shifts. He's been a huge part of that, blocking shots.
"That is a good part. We're definitely playing for him and the other guys that are injured and can't be out there with us. That's how Wags is in a nutshell."
Fortunately for the Bruins, they have a player more than capable of stepping in waiting in the wings. Noel Acciari had been seeing regular time as the fourth-line right wing throughout the playoffs, before suffering an upper-body injury midway through the Columbus series that caused him to miss four games.
He was healthy enough to play in Game 3 against the Hurricanes, but Cassidy opted to keep his lineup unchanged, making the winger a healthy scratch.
"The guy going in, Noel, is very similar, similar players," said Cassidy. "We don't lose much. That's no disrespect to Chris, that's maybe a compliment to Noel. That's just what he brings. That line should keep on motoring, had a real good game for us the other night. They've been excellent for us all year.
"There's probably three, four, five guys in that role on our fourth line that have fed off each other well. We'll miss Chris, but Noel goes in and it's business as usual after that."
Video: Acciari to return to lineup with Wagner injury
No matter the combination, the group of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, Acciari, and Wagner has been immense for the Bruins all season long, and particularly during the playoffs. Along with Boston's third line of Marcus Johansson, Coyle, and Danton Heinen, the Bruins' bottom six has been a handful for teams to deal with through the first three rounds.
"I feel good. I'm gonna do everything I can to help keep this thing rolling. I'm excited," said Acciari, who has a goal and an assist in 11 games this postseason. "Watching these guys doing what they were doing over the last four games, couldn't be happier for them and just want to do my job and make sure we can keep that going."
With a win in Game 4 on Thursday night, the Bruins can secure a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013. But they know closing out this best-of-seven series against the Hurricanes will be no easy task.
"The next game is the most important game," said Zdeno Chara. "We're not looking for anything that is gonna be given to us. We have to earn it…you have to enjoy it, you have to embrace the position you're in. You have to earn everything that you want to accomplish. You can't just rely on it just going to happen."
"The fourth one is the toughest to win," added Coyle. "They're not gonna just sit back and just die down. They're a good team, that's why they're here. They get fired up with the crowd, you see how they came out last game. I think we're gonna expect that same start from them, so we've got to be ready for that."
Video: Coyle looks back on time with Bruins
Taking the Day
In addition to Wagner, Tuukka Rask, Chara, and Steven Kampfer all stayed off the ice on Wednesday afternoon. Here's how the lines looked for the brief session at PNC Arena:
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Backes
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari
John Moore - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
Video: Chara discusses motivations during playoff run