NEWARK - It's never a good thing when your most important player goes down.
And it's even worse when you don't have proper reinforcements.
The Bruins' hope is that the lower-body injury suffered by goalie Tim Thomas in last night's 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils isn't serious and that he can at least serve as Tuukka Rask's backup tonight against Montreal at TD Banknorth Garden.
If not, the Bruins would be in a bind.
Manny Fernandez, once expected to share the net with Thomas this season, just returned to the ice Tuesday, having been sidelined by back and knee woes. Fernandez is not close to seeing game action.
Jordan Sigalet, recalled from Providence once this season when Fernandez strained his left knee, is sidelined indefinitely after his multiple sclerosis-related collapse in a game Nov. 16. The P-Bruins currently have Mike Brown, Boston's fifth-round pick from 2003, and Andy Franck, a 26-year-old who signed a professional tryout contract Nov. 28. Franck, who started the season with the Youngstown Steelhounds of the Central Hockey League, made 31 saves in Providence's 4-3 shootout win over Hartford last night.
Entering last night, Thomas had started 19 games, posting a 10-7-2 record with a 2.09 goals-against average. Thomas's .938 save percentage was the best among NHL goalies. He suffered a groin injury last season but didn't miss any games.
Including last night, Rask has seen action in three NHL games.
"We knew he was in a tough position," coach Claude Julien said of Rask's late entry. "I certainly don't blame him for that last goal."
Happy, but tiredAt around 11 p.m. Monday, after the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Islanders, Marcie Reich, wife of fourth-line forward Jeremy Reich, informed her husband she was going into labor with the couple's first child.
At the time, she wasn't ready to leave their downtown home.
That wasn't the case two hours later.
At approximately 1 a.m. Tuesday, Reich's wife traveled to Massachusetts General Hospital, putting the forward in a bind: wait for the first shuttle back to Boston at 6 a.m. or rent a car and hustle north.
"I was hoping she'd hold on," said Reich yesterday.
Wife and daughter cooperated. Reich flew to Boston and arrived at the hospital at approximately 7:30 a.m., plenty of time before Addisen Grace was born at 10:51 a.m.
"Definitely exciting," said Reich. "Everything went well. Wife and baby are doing fine."
Reich spent Tuesday with his family, then traveled to New Jersey early yesterday in time for the morning skate.
"Didn't sleep until [Tuesday] night," Reich, en route for a nap at the team hotel, said after the skate. "Didn't get any after the [Monday] game because I was up all night. I got about eight hours of sleep [Tuesday] night. So I could use some more this afternoon."
Help is on the wayAndrew Ference (sprained left knee) skated at Ristuccia Arena Tuesday, and Shawn Thornton (broken left foot) also has been on the ice, indicating they are progressing with their injuries.
"It's not fun making those decisions," Julien said of slotting once-injured players back into the lineup. "But it's still a good situation to be in. Any time you have tough decisions to make, it's a good sign for your hockey club. I guess the good thing is that I don't have to answer you today because it's not the day. But we're going to have some tough decisions down the road."
Aaron Ward (sprained right ankle) remained off the ice and in Boston yesterday. He missed his second straight game and is day to day.
Giant fanFor the last two seasons, when he was coaching junior hockey in Red Deer, Alberta, current New Jersey coach Brent Sutter became familiar with Milan Lucic, who starred for the Vancouver Giants.
So when Sutter coached the Canadian entry in the Canada/Russia Super Series this past summer, he had no hesitation in naming Lucic captain.
"He's obviously come a long way in the last three years," said Sutter. "He's a big, strong, tough kid. What's great about Milan is his competitiveness and how hard he works. That's what's unique about him. Is he an overly skilled player? No. But he gets things done because he works hard and competes hard."