OTTAWA - When defenseman Colin Miller walked down a hallway in the Boston Bruins team hotel on Thursday, he showed a bit of a limp. That, likely, was a result of the knee-to-knee hit he took from Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki in the second period of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series, a 2-1 Bruins victory on Wednesday. It was an injury - officially "lower-body" - that kept him out of the third period, and forced the Bruins to finish with five defensemen for the third straight game.
There was little news on Miller from the Bruins on Thursday, and none on the other two injured defensemen, Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo, each remaining back in Boston. So the question, with Game 2 looming Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports), is what exactly the Bruins will do now that they're potentially down three of their starting defensemen.
Helping to solve that puzzle is defenseman Charlie McAvoy, the 19-year-old who impressed in his NHL debut on Wednesday, making the most of the biggest stage. Not only did he handle himself admirably for a player who had never seen NHL action before the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he took the pressure off the rest of the Bruins, playing 24:11, the second-most minutes to Zdeno Chara.
Video: Game 1 Reactions: BOS vs OTT
Had McAvoy not been able to come up quite so big, that would have put significant pressure on the rest of the Boston defense, already tired after playing extra minutes in the past two games.
"The Charlie McAvoy factor, we weren't sure going in," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Twenty-four minutes of solid play. Like a lot of players, there's some things he'll have to do better, but more positives than negatives, that's for sure. Held his own. Assume he'll only get better."
That would help, certainly.
There are other factors, though nothing can replace the players who enabled the Bruins to get this far in the first place. There are new pairs, substitutions on the power play, switches on the fly.
"You just try and communicate as much as you can," defenseman Adam McQuaid said. "If you're going out with different guys, everyone plays a little bit differently, so it's just about trying to communicate, just having a little extra awareness."
If Miller is not able to play, the likely option would be Joe Morrow, who is with the team in Ottawa. He has seen limited time this season, playing 17 games, but adding the left shot would enable the Bruins to balance their pairs, as Cassidy pointed out.
Video: BOS@OTT, Gm1: Anderson stifles Chara's chance
Krug and Carlo remain "day-to-day" and there is no current plan for either to travel to Ottawa.
That could leave the Bruins again relying on the healthy defensemen, especially the veteran ones left: McQuaid, Chara, Kevan Miller and John-Michael Liles, in addition to McAvoy, and perhaps either Colin Miller or Morrow.
But it also will mean relying on the forwards to help make up the difference. It becomes a focus for the entire unit, not just the defense pair on the ice.
"You need to be aware of that," center Patrice Bergeron said. "There's been a few times yesterday that the D needed to change, they were tired, and we didn't do that in the second. That's when we got caught in our zone. Our Ds were really tired, and especially when you're missing a guy, you need to be aware of that. You need to be aware of who you're up against - when you're missing a guy, us forwards need to put the puck deep, need to manage the play. I thought we got back to doing that in the third."
On the other side, though, there are some regrets. Knowing the Bruins were down to five defensemen, and that Krug and Carlo were not on the ice, the Senators believe there was something they could have exploited. They know they didn't do that, or at least didn't do that enough.
"We've got to make it hard on them," Ottawa forward Mark Stone said. "I think you've got to make their Ds turn, make them go back for pucks and limit the turnovers. When you turn the puck over, it makes their D a lot easier to stay on the offensive blue line for the entire night. The second period, I think we were really wearing them down, and then we let them off in the third."
That pressure might change on Saturday, knowing what the Senators now know: with a bit more pressure, they could have been the ones to exit on top. So the Bruins will have to be ready - whoever they send out there.