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Patrice Bergeron will miss Boston's season opener

Bruins forward listed as day to day with lower-body injury

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- Center Patrice Bergeron is day to day with a lower-body injury and will not play in the Boston Bruins' season-opening game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Thursday, general manager Don Sweeney said Wednesday.

Bergeron was injured at the end of practice Tuesday, but the Bruins would not expand on the nature of the injury or reveal how it happened. Coach Claude Julien described it as "not a major injury; it's minor." Though Bergeron won't play Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, NESN, NHL TV), there is a chance he could join the Bruins during the rest of their season-opening road trip, which continues against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and ends against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.

"You're missing one of your better players," Julien said after practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Wednesday. "So it's not an easy way to start, but it's a reality. I really feel that it's an opportunity too for guys to show ... we've been talking about having depth, well let's use that depth right now. And if everybody does their job and we play the way we should, I think we can get through this."

Bergeron won't be the only veteran missing Thursday. Defenseman Adam McQuaid is day to day with an upper-body injury and also will not travel to Columbus. Defenseman Kevan Miller had successful surgery Tuesday to repair a broken left hand. His expected recovery time is six weeks.

The Bruins did receive some positive news. Forward Austin Czarnik was cleared for a full-contact practice after going through the concussion protocol and should be in the lineup Thursday. Czarnik was injured on a hit Saturday by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas, who was suspended for six games by the NHL Department of Player Safety. 

But it will be difficult for the Bruins to completely make up for Bergeron's absence. The 31-year-old played at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, finishing with four goals and seven points in six games to help Team Canada win the tournament. He led the Bruins with 68 points last season, and his 32 goals were second behind left wing Brad Marchand's 37.

Bergeron is a three-time 30-goal scorer and a three-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward. He plays in all situations and typically matches up against the opposition's best line.

Julien's first attempt to replace Bergeron had David Backes at center between Marchand and David Pastrnak for practice. Backes was signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1 partly because of his versatility. He played mostly right wing during training camp but knew all along he would have to move around the lineup based on need.

"I played with [Pastrnak] for the one preseason game. Playing with [Marchand] is going to be a little bit of a learning curve. I think him and [Bergeron] played together for years and years and years, and we have one practice together," Backes said. "So hopefully we can use hockey sense and communicate and get some instant chemistry and produce and have a great game tomorrow night. But it's going to be a process to get that in order but what a great challenge and what a great opportunity to show our stuff and here we go."

Marchand and Bergeron have been linemates, almost exclusively, since the 2010-11 season. They're also penalty-killing partners. Marchand will have to adjust to a new center, at least for the short term.

"He's a good player," Marchand said of Backes. "And he plays a hard game, plays well down low. He makes a lot of really good plays in tight. So it will be fun to play with him."

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