Speaking to reporters for the first time since severely injuring his right arm in the conference finals, Bruins forward Chris Wagner had an idea.
“I wanted to come up here and be like [Patriots coach] Bill Belichick,’’ Wagner joked from one of eight podiums set up at TD Garden for Stanley Cup Media Day on Sunday afternoon, “And say ‘We’re onto Cincinnati.’ ’’
Though he ultimately didn’t channel his inner Belichick, Wagner remained hesitant to open up about his status. The team likely won’t make it official, but all signs point to the 27-year-old Walpole native being sidelined for the entirety of the Stanley Cup Final.
“I would be very surprised if Chris is ready to play, but we’ll wait and see,’’ general manager Don Sweeney said last week.
Wagner hasn’t skated since blocking a shot with his arm and exiting late in the third period of Boston’s Game 3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 14. He was spotted walking around the Garden on Saturday — with his forearm protected in a splint of some sort — and declined Sunday to share any details pertaining to his physical condition. The official diagnosis, once divulged at the conclusion of the postseason, will probably reveal a broken bone, or more.
The initial pain, of course, has subsided, but Wagner remembers it well. With five minutes remaining, and the Hurricanes pushing to score an equalizing goal, Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk fired a slap shot that nailed Wagner, who immediately clutched his wrist.
“I went to block it and blocked it,’’ Wagner said. “It didn’t feel good. You can tell if you watch my reaction. I probably kind of blacked out a little bit. It hurt.’’
Although the recovery process hasn’t been the easiest emotional experience, Wagner’s love and support for his teammates stay unwavering.
“It’s been a little tough, watching them get ready and not being on the ice,’’ Wagner said. “I mean, it’s been really tough. But you just want to stay supportive. We’ve gotten this far. It’s not about me; it’s about the team. We’ve had that attitude for whoever has gone in and out of the lineup.’’
Those feelings are certainly reciprocated. After the Bruins punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup, the team FaceTimed Wagner from their celebration in the visitors’ dressing room at PNC Arena. Wagner, who had returned to Boston for further testing, answered the call and was able to witness parts of the postgame festivities.
“Honestly, at this point, I wouldn’t expect anything less,’’ Wagner said, “Which is funny because 10 years ago if I was getting a FaceTime from Zdeno Chara, I would probably be like, ‘What the heck?’ But it was pretty cool to almost feel like you’re in the locker room. For them to think of me like that in that moment, it means a lot to me.’’
So, with his Stanley Cup debut in doubt, would he do it all again? Would he still get in front of that shot from Faulk?
“It’s Sunday, so I told my mom I was going to drop a Bible quote,’’ Wagner said. “Jesus said that there’s no greater love than laying down your life for your friend. We’re all friends and we all love each other, so why would I not?’’
Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington has nothing but positive reviews about his year-long tenure with the Providence Bruins.
“The Boston Bruins prospects are in great hands, I can tell you that,’’ Binnington said. “It was a great city. I’m very fortunate they took me in. I met a lot of good people.’’
Binnington, who was selected by the Blues 88th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, was assigned to the P-Bruins last season because St. Louis did not have an AHL affiliate at the time. Blues coach Craig Berube said the team sent out a memo asking if anyone was in need of an experienced goaltender, and Sweeney and Bruins director of player personnel John Ferguson gave them a call.
“We were able to work something out,’’ Berube said.
In 28 regular-season games, Binnington finished with a save percentage of 92.6 and a goals-against average of 2.05. Providence was eliminated in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs, ending his time with the team. The 25-year-old Ontario native said he still keeps in touch with a couple of friends, but his focus now is unquestionably on starting for the Blues.
“It’s a cool storyline,’’ Binnington said. “The way I look at it is I got to see a different organization and how they ran things last year. I think that’s a good experience for me to see what’s out there. At the same time, I’m a St. Louis Blue and I’m proud to represent them.’’
Binnington noted he’s not worried about the Bruins having any extra intel when scouting him.
As for what he thinks of his opponent Tuukka Rask?
He kept his answer short and sweet: “He’s pretty good.’’
Marchand set to go
Bruins forward Brad Marchand had a maintenance day and did not practice. He will be “ready to go’’ for Game 1 on Monday, coach Bruce Cassidy said.
“I just told Butchy I wanted a day off,’’ Marchand said, with a smile. “I’ve had enough of practicing.’’
Center David Krejci will also be good to go for Game 1. The 33-year-old veteran missed Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage and Saturday’s practice because of illness, but returned to the ice Sunday and said he will be “100 percent’’ on Monday.
“I was a little sick,’’ Krejci said. “No one likes to be sick, right?’’