BOSTON - Staying healthy is no easy feat during an 82-game campaign. As the regular season shifts into its final stages, the Bruins' lineup finds itself without a few familiar faces.
Injuries are not a foreign concept to many teams in the NHL at this point in the year, in fact, they have become almost an integral part of the game. While the lengthy season begins to take its inevitable toll on players, it's not uncommon to witness a bit of a juggling act among line combinations and defensive pairings. However, this is also where opportunity presents itself - especially for defenseman Connor Clifton.
After dealing with an upper-body injury he sustained on December 29, Clifton has yet to return to his role on the blue line. That may all change as head coach Bruce Cassidy stated after Monday's practice that the 24-year-old will be skating alongside John Moore, due to both Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo slated to miss Tuesday night's contest in Philadelphia.
"I mean, he hasn't played here for a while, so he's going to have to find his game. Stay within himself early on. Make some simple decisions, hopefully initiate some plays early so he gets into it," Cassidy said regarding Clifton's anticipated return to the lineup. "Obviously playing in Providence will help that, but still it's not the same…that's the hand you're dealt when you're coming off injury."
"Yeah, it is. Obviously, the older you get the better you get at it, right?" Clifton added when asked about the joining the lineup after his recovery. "So, we'll see how it goes. Obviously, I'm fresh, so I'm just going to work hard."
Video: Clifton returns to lineup against PHI
Krug, Carlo Sidelined
Cassidy went on to provide an update on Carlo's injury and shed light on Krug's absence from Monday's practice.
"Brandon and Torey are out. Upper bodies for both of those. Torey went into the boards with [Tampa's Alex] Killorn the other night, it's a residual effect of that, so he'll be day-to-day, as well as Brandon," Cassidy said. "[Brandon] skated this morning, won't play [Tuesday]. We'll target Friday or the weekend for him."
Video: Cassidy gives updates on lines ahead of PHI
Late season injuries call into question the need for resting players. As the postseason picture becomes clearer, coaches and players consider time away from the ice.
"It's always hard as a competitor. You want to be out there; you want to play," explained Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. "We'll see by the end when it comes to that. We'll have those conversations. I know we've done it in the past. We'll see what happens. As a player, you want to be out there."
Video: Bergeron looks at upcoming schedule, talks rest
As for other players, including Krug and Carlo, rest comes at an unpredictable time.
"Some guys who have played a lot this year are getting rest because of their injuries," said Cassidy. "You're getting the opportunity to get them some games off, but not the reason why we want them to have it. We'd rather do it at our choosing."
Monday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie - David Krejci - Ondrej Kase
Sean Kuraly - Charlie Coyle - Jake DeBrusk
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Anton Blidh - Anders Bjork
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon
Connor Clifton - John Moore