BOSTON -- Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg will have surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back and is expected to miss eight weeks, the Bruins said Wednesday.
The Monday before training camp opened last week, Seidenberg complained to the Bruins' training staff about some nerve irritation that flared up during an off-ice workout. Seidenberg had been trying to recover from the injury with rest by not participating in training camp, which opened last Thursday. With little to no improvement, the decision was announced that Seidenberg would have surgery Thursday to repair a lumbar spine disk herniation.
Seidenberg was so disappointed about his latest injury that he apologized, according to general manager Don Sweeney.
By the time the 34-year-old's two-month absence is through, one or more of Boston's defensemen who currently lack Seidenberg's NHL pedigree might be thanking Sweeney and Seidenberg for the opportunity to pick up the slack.
"He came back from an ACL last year and has a setback which we hope being identified fairly early in camp … a couple weeks ahead of the season to have the surgery done and get the healing well underway," Sweeney said after the Bruins held practice at TD Garden on Wednesday. "So it's definitely a setback. I mean it's obviously an opportunity for the other guys we were evaluating anyway, amongst our 'D' core, and we'll go from there."
Those other guys are coach Claude Julien's main concern in the aftermath of the Seidenberg news.
"I think it's important for me right now to focus on what we've got and to make sure I do the best to make it work," Julien said. "That's always part of the game when you've got some players that get injured throughout the season. So it's unfortunate that it's happened to him at that time. But I'll move forward here with the guys that we have and there's a lot of guys that are eager to prove that they belong here. Obviously that will give them a chance."
Seidenberg has been a mainstay on the Bruins' back end for five seasons. Last season he played in 82 games and averaged 22:06 of ice time. He had three goals, 14 points and a team-high 146 blocked shots. He was third on the Bruins in shorthanded ice time at 2:33 per game. But the Bruins have survived without him in the past. Seidenberg missed the last 44 games of the 2013-14 regular season and then then the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of torn MCL and ACL ligaments. The Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy that season.
Sweeney said he will "continue to talk to other teams and people that may or may not be available to see if we need to fill that void." But there was already a competition going on for one or two spots in the Bruins' defense corps before Seidenberg's injury. So now that competition will be expanded and there could be more ice time available to the victors.
The group of candidates for jobs starts with three returnees. Zach Trotman, who was the last pick (No. 210) of the 2010 NHL Draft, is on a one-way contract and impressed as captain Zdeno Chara's defense partner for parts of last season in 27 games. Joe Morrow also gained NHL experience last season with 15 games. Kevan Miller was just starting to find his way in the NHL when he exited the Bruins' lineup after shoulder surgery.
Then there are a couple newcomers. Matt Irwin signed with Boston as a free agent after he had eight goals and 19 points in 53 games for the San Jose Sharks last season. Colin Miller was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the Milan Lucic trade. He was an American Hockey League Second Team All-Star for the Manchester Monarchs last season and led all AHL defensemen with 19 goals.
Torey Krug, entering his third NHL season, knows what it takes for the Bruins to overcome injuries to important defensemen.
"Just realizing that no guy's irreplaceable," Krug said. "And also with that comes opportunity, and guys step up and take advantage of that. 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 that. It's about making sure we take advantage of that opportunity. It's one of the reasons I'm in this League right now, because of some of the injuries that occurred during the playoffs in '13. So you never want to see any of your buddies or your teammates go down. But with that comes opportunity, and we'll see who takes advantage and makes the most of it."
Krug was thrust in the spotlight during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers in 2013 because injuries removed three Bruins defensemen, including Seidenberg, from the lineup. Despite his 5-foot-9, 181-pound stature, Krug's emerged as a reliable two-way player that can play in Boston's top four against certain matchups. He averaged 19:36 of ice time last season. With Seidenberg's absence, Krug and Adam McQuaid might be asked to do more, especially on the penalty kill.
"I think that it's a chance for other guys to really step up," Chara said. "We also had some guys that have already been playing in the League for a number of years. So we're going to make sure we stay on top of things and communicate and do whatever we can. We support each other and obviously be there with Dennis as well."