WILMINGTON, MA - When the Bruins hit the ice on Sunday morning at Ristuccia Arena before heading to Nashville, Brad Marchand was not present.
"Yeah, he’s making the trip," Head Coach Claude Julien confirmed. "He’s just banged up, so a maintenance day today, obviously for the reasons you saw last night."
Julien was quick to stay there's no need to make an emergency callup; Marchand just needed the maintenance day.
Before the midpoint of the first period in the Bruins' eventual 4-1 over Buffalo on Saturday night, Marchand was caught in a collision along the boards with Christian Ehrhoff. He was helped down the tunnel by the training staff, before returning not too long after, and taking his place on the penalty kill.
He finished out the rest of the game just fine, and provided a huge shot block early in the second period. It hobbled him a bit, but he got up, continued played, and easily got a roar of appreciation from the crowd for sacrificing his body.
Hockey's obviously a tough sport, and you'll find players willing to put themselves in those situations on every team, but "playing tough" is also predominantly the Boston Bruins' way.
"I think it’s an identity that we’ve established over a few years and I think now, that’s how it is," Patrice Bergeron said prior to the game against Buffalo.
The night before, Ryan Spooner - not usually a shot blocker - was given that task on the penalty kill, and came up with a big block, similar to Marchand's. The Bruins' PK has taken a hit recently, with three of its top penalty killers in Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Loui Eriksson sidelined. Players not necessarily known as "shot blockers" like Johnny Boychuk or Gregory Campbell are expected to step out of their comfort zones.
"I think everyone takes a lot of pride in doing that," said Bergeron.
"We’ve seen that from all the guys throughout the years but this year, it’s the same thing. I think we have to battle and fight adversity. No one obviously feels sorry for us because we’re missing some guys. We have to find a way to do the job."
Paille Returns to Practice
It was the first time he joined the Bruins for practice since being sidelined by concussion symptoms.
He began skating Friday on his own, and has been symptom-free four about six days, since the Bruins hosted the Calgary Flames on December 17.
Though he wasn't making the trip to Nashville with the team before the Christmas break, it was still a great sign to see his progress.
"Still haven’t been cleared yet so I still have to do the testing right now and when that process goes through, I’ll be able to travel but until then they thought it was best to stay here."
For more on Paille's return, check out a longer post in the Bruins Blog.
McQuaid "Possibility" vs Nashville
It's been 12 days since Adam McQuaid first started skating again, after re-aggravating his lower-body injury. He's been consistently practicing with the team, and is inching closer to a return to game action. He and the Bruins have been even more cautious with the recovery this time
The defenseman has missed the Bruins' past nine games. Before the nagging injury came back, he had already missed eight games this season because of it. He's only played in 18 of Boston's 36 games (1-2=3, 39 penalty minutes, plus-7 rating).
McQuaid may finally get his return to the lineup as soon as Nashville.
"He’s a possibility," said Julien. "He’s coming on the road trip so certainly we’ll make that decision tomorrow [Monday]. As long as he feels good and he’s ready to go, we could see him in the lineup."
The three-day Christmas break coming up might offer more time for McQuaid to rest, but that won't be a factor in the decision-making.
"For us, when a guy is ready to go, he’s ready to go," said Julien. "You don’t hold a guy back when he’s ready to go just because you’re looking at the schedule and I think right now it’s a matter of, if he’s ready to g,o he should be playing. So I don’t know that we should be holding him back any longer when he’s feeling good."
"He’s telling us he’s feeling pretty good right now, so we’ll make sure that’s the case tomorrow."
Hamilton Starts Skating
Dougie Hamilton began skating on his own Saturday morning. He's missed the Bruins' past six games with a lower-body injury he sustained against Toronto on December 8.
As the Bruins were beginning to finish up practice on Sunday at Ristuccia Arena, Hamilton was given the go-ahead to hop on the ice with Strength & Conditioning Coach John Whitesides.
The team was amidst battling drills and stopped to lend stick taps to Hamilton, as he skated past them to take turns at the opposite end with 'Whitey.'
"It’s a lot of fun having those guys come back to the rink. We have a great group of guys and we all get along very well," said fellow blueliner Torey Krug. "So you see guys coming back to the rink and getting out on the ice - Dougie was skating there for a bit today, Piesy’s out there, Quaider’s getting close to coming back. It’s just fun to see everyone at the rink and getting back out there together."
Eriksson Around the Rink
Loui Eriksson was around the locker room at Ristuccia Arena on Sunday morning. He first showed up back around the team on Tuesday; a great sign for anyone recovering from a concussion.
"I don’t know exactly what he’s doing [in terms of working out]; I think the fact is he’s feeling better," said Julien. "He doesn’t mind being around right now and that’s a step in the right direction where, at one point he couldn’t tolerate too much noise or too much activity around him. So it’s a step in the right direction here."
"I don’t know exactly where he is in his rehab, but it’s a good sign to see him here."
Besides a rough patch of 1-3-1 from October 26 to November 5, the Bruins have not lost back-to-back games. It's only happened twice this season, both coming within that five-game stretch.
Following a 4-2 loss to Buffalo on Thursday night, Boston quickly rebounded with a 4-1 win on Saturday.
It's almost a give by now, that when the Bruins don't get the result they want, they'll make sure that doesn't happen the next time out.
"That’s another thing we talk about in the room, is not losing two games in a row," said Torey Krug. "That’s something that we really focus on. You go from game to game and you’re not always going to get the outcome that you want."
"We played a pretty good game in Buffalo and didn’t get the right outcome and then we came back and we just wanted to keep doing similar things because we knew it would produce goals for us, and play good defense. So it’s nice to have that mentality."
Home for the Holidays
After facing the Predators, the Bruins - and the rest of the NHL - will have a three-day break around the Christmas holiday.
"You’d always like to finish on a good note," said Julien. "It certainly helps to make Christmas a little more fun but that’s kind of been our goal from the last four games was to finish strong here."
The Lighter Side
Shawn Thornton has been back skating with the team since they came back from the road trip through Canada. His presence always has an immediate impact on the group, and it appears, the fans feel it too.
As I walked through Ristuccia Arena on Sunday, headed towards the locker room, which was about to open up for media availability following practice, I was stopped by young fan Wesley. He handed me a Black & Gold friendship bracelet for Shawn.
Once No. 22 skated off the ice, the bracelet was passed along. The winger slipped it on his wrist and went towards the stands to give a 'thank you' and wave to Wesley. Pretty cool moment.
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