Defensive posturing for Bruins
Boychuk’s injury shuffles lineup, means opportunity
WILMINGTON — Dennis Seidenberg, in the first season of a four-year, $13 million extension, has recorded two assists, averaged 23:48 of ice time, and landed 12 hits.
Not good enough.
“No. No,’’ Seidenberg said, when asked if he’s reached a comfort zone yet. “I know I can be better, managing the puck as well as on outlet passes. But I know it’s going to come. I feel a lot better than I did before. At least that’s something.’’
Seidenberg and the rest of the defensive corps will have to improve. Johnny Boychuk will miss the next four weeks because of a broken left forearm. Boychuk had been the team’s second-best defenseman behind Zdeno Chara before the injury, which came in the first period of Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers.
Brandon Dubinsky slashed Boychuk on top of the left wrist. Boychuk retired to the dressing room to have his wrist taped, then returned for eight first-period shifts.
“Just tried to suck it up, I guess,’’ Boychuk said. “Thought it was just a bruise or something like that. So I came back and tried to finish the period.’’
An X-ray taken after the first period, however, revealed the break. Boychuk wore a splint over the weekend, and he was scheduled to be fitted with a cast yesterday afternoon. The defenseman will not need surgery.
Boychuk’s loss will be a significant absence for the Bruins’ back end. Boychuk, who’s been paired with Chara, helped keep Washington’s Alex Ovechkin off the score sheet in back-to-back games. Boychuk had averaged 2:32 of shorthanded ice time per game, and he’d been the triggerman on the No. 2 power-play unit. Boychuk was the only right-shot defenseman in the six-pack.
“It’s a loss. No doubt,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “He’d been playing pretty good hockey for us and been pretty consistent since last year. So you lose a guy who I feel is a consistent player in your lineup every night. It’s an opportunity for someone else to step in and fill the gap. We’ve done that many times in the past. It’s only one of many more to come.’’
During yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena, Andrew Ference replaced Boychuk as Chara’s partner. The coaching staff will most likely use today and tomorrow to consider other pairings before Thursday’s home game against Toronto.
Adam McQuaid, a healthy scratch for the first six games, is expected to make his season debut Thursday. The stay-at-home defenseman appeared in 19 games last season, recording one goal while averaging 10:44 of ice time per outing. McQuaid dressed for nine playoff games. Like Boychuk, the 6-foot-4-inch, 197-pound McQuaid is a right-shot defenseman.
“Adam McQuaid, every time he’s played for us, as far as I’m concerned, he’s never cost us,’’ Julien said. “He’s always been simple. Solid play. We have confidence that he can step in and do the job. It means other players are going to get a little bit more ice. But that’s an opportunity for everybody to take advantage of. This is an opportunity to show that no matter what happens, we’re still a team and we’re still a good team that’s going to stick together.’’
McQuaid is projected to skate on the third pairing. Yesterday, McQuaid skated alongside Matt Hunwick. On Sunday, Boychuk shared some words and encouragement for McQuaid when they ran into each other at a local movie theater.
“I’m really excited,’’ McQuaid said. “It’s not the way you want to get in. But I’ve been trying to stay sharp in practice.’’
Most of the responsibility of filling Boychuk’s role, however, will fall upon veterans such as Seidenberg, Ference, and Mark Stuart. Seidenberg had been patrolling the point with Boychuk on the No. 2 power-play unit. But Seidenberg was pulled from PP duties and replaced by Patrice Bergeron after the Bruins started the season 1 for 15 on the man-advantage.
For Seidenberg, who missed the entire postseason following surgery to repair a lacerated tendon in his left arm, finding his game has taken longer than expected. Seidenberg struggled during the preseason, then had trouble with his timing and puck management once the regular season kicked off. Seidenberg said that next summer, he’ll begin skating earlier to avoid a repeat of his slow start. In August, Seidenberg missed some ice time when he was in Montreal for several days waiting to renew his visa. Seidenberg is a German citizen.
“I definitely didn’t think I was going to feel that bad in training camp,’’ said Seidenberg, who established himself as the No. 2 defenseman last season upon his arrival from Florida. “I guess next summer, I’ll start skating earlier. I don’t know what it was. Just didn’t have it throughout camp. I think once the season started, I started to feel better and more comfortable on the ice. My positioning and skating were back. Next year, I want to be ready earlier than this year.’’
David Krejci didn’t practice yesterday. Krejci was having his wisdom teeth pulled. Daniel Paille, a healthy scratch for the last five games, replaced Krejci between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.