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Canucks at Bruins > Game 4

Double whammy

Horton, Rome both out for duration

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / June 8, 2011

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Yesterday morning, after spending the night at Massachusetts General Hospital, Bruins right winger Nathan Horton was cleared to return to his downtown home for an indefinite period of recovery from what was diagnosed as a severe concussion.

The cheer of that development, however, was offset by the declaration that Horton will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup Final. Team doctors determined that Horton’s brain was jarred too hard by Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome in the first period of Game 3 for him to continue playing on the game’s biggest stage.

“We lost a pretty good player,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien of his No. 1 right wing. “We’re obviously glad to know it’s not as bad as you always suspect. He got out this morning and has gone back home. It’s obviously a long road to recovery, but hopefully he gets better soon.’’

The NHL acted swiftly to punish Rome for his hit, which took place at 5:07 of the first period. Following a disciplinary hearing, senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy an nounced that Rome was suspended for four games, which means he is not eligible to play again in this series.

Rome had been playing with Kevin Bieksa on Vancouver’s shutdown defense pairing. Rome had replaced Dan Hamhuis, who was knocked out in Game 1 because of a leg injury. Keith Ballard, a healthy scratch all series, will most likely replace Rome.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault disagreed with the league’s ruling on the hit.

“It was a little bit late,’’ he said. “But anybody that’s played this game knows you have to make a decision in a fraction of a second. He’s engaged in the hit.

“I don’t know how the league could come up with that decision.’’

Murphy said there were two factors in the ruling.

First, he concluded that Rome delivered a late hit. By Murphy’s reckoning, Rome landed the hit at least a second after Horton had passed the puck to Milan Lucic. Horton never saw Rome approaching.

Second, the league considered the severity of Horton’s injury. After the hit, Horton held his right arm raised in a stiff, sickly manner. Medical staff wheeled Horton off the ice on a stretcher.

“It’s common sense,’’ said Bruins forward Chris Kelly. “Knowing when someone is in a vulnerable spot comes into play.

“You never want to see anyone on the ice like that, regardless if it’s your team or the other team. It’s a part of the game that the league wants to take out.’’

Murphy said the hit did not fall under Rule 48, otherwise known as the Marc Savard Rule, which deals with blindside hits targeting the head. Murphy deemed it a north-south play, not a blindside hit.

“Guys play all their lives to get to this series on both teams. They might never get back,’’ Murphy said. “I take it very seriously. I do not make light of this. I wish I wasn’t sitting here. I wish Aaron was playing. I wish Nathan was playing.’’

The wallop has left the Bruins without one of their most offensive-minded players on their most dangerous attacking threesome.

In 21 postseason games, Horton has 8 goals and 9 assists for 17 points, second on the team behind linemate David Krejci (20). Horton scored series-clinching goals against Montreal in the first round and Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference final. He averaged 16:54 of ice time per game and was on the No. 1 power-play unit.

“Losing a player like Horty is a big loss,’’ said Bruins winger Shawn Thornton. “He’s been unbelievable for us. A lot of key goals. He’s an unbelievable teammate.

“It’s not going to be easy, but guys are going to have to step up and do more now. Everybody in the lineup. Everybody that’s been playing is going to have to step up.’’

The leading candidates to fill Horton’s spot are Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley. Both wingers started Game 3 on the third line. After Horton’s injury, Julien gave Ryder and Peverley shifts on the first line.

If Julien wants an offense-first line, Ryder would get the call. Ryder is the closest approximation to Horton. When Ryder is on his game, he is skating, quick to play the body, strong on the puck, and quick to snap off his wrister, which might be faster and heavier than Horton’s.

In Game 3, Ryder scored a power-play goal and added two assists. On his first helper, Ryder took the puck off the left-side wall and made a perfect seam pass through Vancouver’s penalty-killing box to Mark Recchi.

Ryder recorded his second assist after he snapped a shot that Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo stopped with his blocker. Krejci went high glove on the rebound. Ryder scored the eighth and final Boston goal at 19:29 of the third.

“We have a lot of depth on this team,’’ Ryder said. “Last time Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] got hurt, [Tyler Seguin] came in and did a great job. It’s a good thing that we have that on our team.

“Guys know that if somebody goes down, they can step it up. It’s a big reason why we’ve had so much success this year.’’

If Julien prefers speed and a two-way presence, Peverley would skate with Krejci and Lucic. Peverley has been a utility forward who has played on all four lines through the first three games. He would give the line speed on the wing to back up the Canucks and another dependable faceoff man. Peverley has won 51.7 percent of his draws in the playoffs.

A dark horse would be Seguin. The 19-year-old was a healthy scratch for Game 3. The Bruins deemed that dressing Thornton would give the fourth line the identity that was absent in Games 1 and 2.

Regardless of where he plays, Seguin will be back in uniform tonight.

Seguin hasn’t seen many top-line minutes. But the rookie’s speed and skill could round out the threesome. Also, because Julien has the last change, he could get the right matchups for Seguin. Julien has preferred matching his third line against Vancouver’s third unit. But Raffi Torres, Maxim Lapierre, and Jannik Hansen play a heavy, grinding game, which doesn’t suit Seguin’s tools.

“Still up in the air as we speak,’’ Julien said. “Lot of things that will come into play. First of all, who would be the right fit for those guys? Also, who they’re playing against. We’re even looking at Tyler in that mix with Peverley and Ryder with his speed and skill level.

“But who’s he going to play against? At home, you have that last change. At the same time, they can always change on the fly.

“We need to look at it. I might be moving guys around as the game goes along depending on what happens.

“It’s a big loss. There was chemistry between those three. That’s been lost. So somebody’s got to step in and do the job.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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