EDMONTON, AB - As the Bruins continue their 5200-plus mile trip through Canada, Wednesday brought them to Rexall Place, following an emotional night in Calgary with Jarome Iginla's return to the Saddledome.
With the Flames' fans giving Iggy the homecoming he deserved, Boston's road trip now gives both Iginla and defenseman Johnny Boychuk a homecoming to their hometown of Edmonton.
Boychuk returned to the lineup in Calgary. Adam McQuaid and Dougie Hamilton are now the Bruins' blueliners still sidelined. Hamilton is back in Boston, out an estimated 2-4 weeks with a lower-body injury he suffered in Toronto.
McQuaid traveled with the team, though he was placed on injured reserve by General Manager Peter Chiarelli on Sunday. Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien had projected him to start skating this week.
The defenseman hit the ice to skate on his own prior to Wednesday's practice at Rexall Place.
It was his first time skating since re-aggravating his lower-body injury. It's been a somewhat nagging injury for McQuaid, who has missed time off and on since November 9.
"I know he went out early and skated. I didn’t talk to my trainers yet so I have no idea of the outcome and whether he felt better or whether he’s still being cautious," said Julien.
McQuaid spent about five minutes on the ice, taking turns and testing out the injury. "Grab a puck like you're a kid back on the pond again," Athletic Trainer Don DelNegro shouted out to the defenseman, as he observed the skate from the Zamboni tunnel.
Paille Heads Back to Boston
Hamilton isn't the only Bruin who has had to leave the team during the trip and fly back to Boston.
Following the Bruins' morning skate on December 10 in Calgary, Julien said that Paille was out with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
After practice in Edmonton, during which Paille was not on the ice, Julien gave an update.
"Dan’s gone back home," he said. "He’s not going to play for the rest of this trip so we’re going to get our doctors to evaluate him."
The laundry list of injuries continues, with Paille (upper body, undisclosed), Chris Kelly (broken fibula, 4-6 weeks, long-term IR), Loui Eriksson (concussion, IR), Adam McQuaid (lower body, IR) and Dougie Hamilton (lower body, 2-4 weeks).
"We’ve always talked about, our depth is what’s given us success over the last couple of years and we’re going to need it for the rest of this road trip," said Milan Lucic. "And probably for the rest of this month. So guys need to step up and play the best they can."
Rask Latest to Battle Flu
The flu strikes again. With Bruins battling it earlier this week, Tuukka Rask was the latest in Black & Gold to be hit by the flu bug. He stayed off the ice to rest on Wednesday in Edmonton.
"We'll see tomorrow, how he is," said Julien. "To be honest with you, Chad Johnson was supposed to be my goalie yesterday [in Calgary]. He was sick so now we’ll see what happens tomorrow [Thursday]. I guess I’ll have to roll the dice until I find out who’s healthy and who’s not."
No Bruins who have been battling the flu have yet to miss any game action.
With Rask not available for practice, Bruins Assistant Coach Geoff Ward got on the phone with the University of Alberta hockey team, to see if their goalie Kurtis Mucha could suit up for the skate.
Hard to say no to that opportunity. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the 24-year-old, who had to postpone a final to join the Bruins for practice. (Check out a longer post on Mucha and the experience in the Bruins Blog).
Johnny Boychuk made his return to the lineup in Calgary. He only missed only two games following his back sprain sustained amidst a scare-worthy moment in Montreal.
He played 21:37 in ice-time, recording a hit and a blocked shot.
"I didn’t get hit too much last game so that kind of helped out but when I did get a hit or give a hit it felt pretty good actually," said Boychuk.
He expected the worst heading into the game, but the end result? "Not too bad. Better than I thought, so that's a good sign."
For the blueliner now, it's about his back staying loose and not stiffening up or experiencing spasms.
Bruins First in East
Amidst injuries, Boston still sits atop the Eastern Conference with 44 points (a point ahead of Pittsburgh, with a game in hand). They're finding ways to win, but Julien would like to still see the consistency they were striving for, before the injuries hit.
"We’re winning hockey games but they are struggles," said the Bruins' bench boss. "We played a real good solid third period last night and the second period was a struggle but we find ways to win. Sometimes the experience of our team and the guys that we have that are healthy certainly helps."
"We know that we can be much better and sometimes you have to be honest and you look at the standings and be realistic with the assessment of your team and it’s maybe not the same. We’re happy to be where we are but we know we should and have to be a lot better."
White Jerseys: Milan Lucic-David-Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Gold: Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Matt Fraser
Grey: Carl Soderberg-Ryan Spooner-Reilly Smith
Merlot: Jordan Caron-Gregory Campbell-Nick Johnson
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski-Kevan Miller
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