Practice in Calgary: Boychuk Skates, Bruins Battling Flu, Eriksson "Not Feeling Great"
CALGARY, AB - When the Bruins touched down in Calgary on Monday afternoon, Johnny Boychuk joined the team for practice, skating for the first time since suffering a back sprain in Montreal on December 5.
The defenseman's back had locked up after going awkwardly into the boards in the game against the Habs. As a precaution, he ended up being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher at the Bell Centre.
There were no fractures found in his back, and the diagnosis was approximately 3-7 days. But it was concerning watching the events that took place on the ice, with everyone anticipating the worst.
"I think we dodged a pretty good bullet there, personally," Head Coach Claude Julien said following the diagnosis. "Those kind of injuries could have serious consequences. We feared the worst and I think we got as good of news as we could get."
After Boychuk skated with the team for their half hour practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday, he said he still felt "pretty stiff," but he didn't seem to face any major issues during the skate.
"I didn't feel awesome. I haven't skated in what, five days? But at least I got out there and moved around, and got back on the ice," he said.
Boychuk hasn't experienced an issue of this magnitude before with his back. For him right now, it's more about keeping his back from stiffening up than anything else.
"It's been loosening up every day with the treatments and stuff like that, and hopefully, we'll see how it feels [Tuesday]," he said.
"I'm not moving mountains, but I mean, it's getting better every day and that's all I could ask for."
For the past two days, Julien has sounded optimistic about Boychuk being available for Tuesday night's game in Calgary against the Flames.
He would be the sixth defensemen for the Bruins, who have not yet called anyone up from Providence to fill in on the blueline, with Dougie Hamilton now sidelined by a lower-body injury suffered Sunday night against Toronto.
Hamilton flew back to Boston Monday to be evaluated by team doctors and is estimated to be out for a week. The Bruins also do not have Adam McQuaid available for game action, after he was placed on injured reserve Sunday (lower body injury).
"Yeah, these right D have been a little cursed," Boychuk acknowledged.
"[Johnny] felt really good the other day; he was ready to go at it," said Julien. "The reason we haven't called a defenseman up is because there’s a real strong anticipation that he’ll be ready to go tomorrow [Tuesday]."
Once any back spasms go away, "he's ready to go," said Julien.
"You want to go out there, of course," said Boychuk. "But you also don't want to go out there and get hurt and hurt the team at the same time."
Boychuk Feels He Dodged a Bullet
While everyone else watching the game in Montreal was scared by the situation of seeing Boychuk on all fours, before being taken off on a stretcher, the defenseman actually wasn't all too frightened.
"I wasn't too worried, was just trying to get up and I just couldn't," he said. He wasn't having trouble breathing; he just couldn't move his back.
"I wanted to, and then they told me to just stay down because they were going to bring the stretcher just in case something was bad and something was wrong with it."
"So it's a good thing they were a little extra precautions because you never know what could be wrong."
But nothing too extreme injury-wise came of it.
Does he feel he dodged a bullet?
"Absolutely. It could have been a lot worse. I mean, you go down and you think the worst when you're down on the ice. But for it to be maybe seven days, is really, really good. I could have been out for a couple months, but I mean, just to be back on the ice today is great."
Depth Coming Through
Boychuk has been impressed (but not surprised), as has everyone else, with the less experienced D like Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug stepping up, especially now that they're taking another hit with Hamilton injured.
"The other guys have been stepping in and doing a great job. I've been watching them," said the blueliner. "And after the game, I'll go tell them what I see and just let them know - I mean, there wasn't too much because they've been playing really well."
"It's good to see you have guys you can call upon when it comes to the job, that they step up and play extremely well."
Bruins Battling the Flu
When the Bruins practiced in Calgary, Zdeno Chara, Gregory Campbell, Chad Johnson and Kevan Miller all were not on the ice, as they are all battling the flu. Instead, they went back to the hotel to rest.
"We’ve been hit with the bit of a flu bug here," said Julien. "Soupy played with it yesterday. One of those 48-hour flu bug things so it’s going around our team as well."
"So we’ve had a lot of challenges this road trip."
"Those are the four guys and, who knows, it started there, it could be more tomorrow. We can’t do anything but try and keep our fingers crossed and hope we’ve got a full lineup tomorrow."
No Carryover for Miller
Miller's absence from practice was due to the flu, not any carryover from the hit from behind by Dion Phaneuf that sent him into the boards late in the third period on Sunday night.
"He’s good," said Julien. "He should be playing tomorrow. He’s fine in regards to that. It was a good hit, I think he had a stiff neck, but symptoms that would cause concerns to us weren’t there."
Eriksson "Not Feeling Great"
When the Bruins earned their 5-2 win over Toronto, they had a depleted back end, but were also missing key players up front.
It was a character win, with Boston missing Loui Eriksson (concussion) and Chris Kelly (broken ankle, long-term IR), in addition to Boychuk, McQuaid and, eventually, Hamilton. Eriksson and Kelly did not travel on the trip.
Eriksson sustained the concussion early in Saturday's game against Pittsburgh.
When Patrice Bergeron spoke with media in Toronto prior to the game against the Leafs, he said he had reached out to Eriksson through text messages.
"He obviously mentioned some stuff about not feeling great," said Bergeron. "But it’s still early, so hopefully he takes his time and it’s going to go away soon. It’s unfortunate, especially since he’s obviously a great player for us and a huge addition so it’s another situation where we all need to step up."
The concussion was Eriksson's second this season, after sustaining his first one against Buffalo on October 23. It's tough to put any timetables on concussions.
"It’s just a day since it’s happened," Julien said prior to the Leafs game. "We know he’s got a concussion so there’s no updates after a day. That’s pretty obvious that it takes a lot longer; especially in his case. It’s his second concussion here in two months and I think a little bit of sensitivity there on our part."
The Bruins are not only without their top-six winger, but they are also without veteran center and alternate captain Chris Kelly. A strong two-way player and penalty killer, Kelly's presence is missed.
"Every time we’ve been through that before it’s about everyone stepping up," said Bergeron. "Obviously Kells is a big part of our team. He plays both sides of the rink and takes a lot of faceoffs as well. So it’s about us centermen to try and take the load and make sure we help out each other and like I said, it’s about everyone, it’s not just one guy; we all need to step up and try to fill the void."
Fraser, Spooner Stepping In
With the injuries, Matt Fraser and Ryan Spooner are in the lineup. They played on a line with Carl Soderberg against Toronto, and were on the ice for the game-winner by Kevan Miller (his first NHL goal).
Spooner has been recalled before, but this time around, it could be for an extended stay.
"Obviously, a couple of guys are going to be out for a bit longer so that kind of makes it a little bit different. But for me, I’m just trying to take it here game by game. I don’t really want to look a week ahead."
Fraser is also staying in the moment.
"Obviously it’s a lot more fast paced than the American League and I think the sooner you make that transition, the more beneficial you’ll be," said the winger, who is on his first recall as a Bruin (he had 13 NHL games of experience with Dallas).
"Our job is to step in and do what we can and kind of push ourselves. I think the biggest thing about having young guys in the lineup is we bring energy and we can definitely do that."