EDMONTON—The Bruins' vaunted depth on defense appears to be primed for a challenge.
With Torey Krug already on the shelf with an ankle injury, Kevan Miller left Thursday's game against the Oilers with what was described as an upper body injury.
Coach Bruce Cassidy said Miller was hurt blocking a shot. When a player can't return from that, that often means a broken bone, but that still is a guess at this point.
“He'll be further evaluated. Blocked shot, so we'll see how that turns out,” Cassidy said.
If Miller is on the shelf, that would force Steven Kampfer into action. Kampfer, obtained in the trade for Adam McQuaid, has not played this season but had a good preseason for the B's.
It appeared the B's also had lost David Backes when he took a high hit from Matt Benning in the first period. Backes, who has a history of concussions, went to the dressing room and returned to the bench late in the first but didn't get into game action again until the second. He played a total of just 6:28.
Cassidy did not like the hit.
“I thought it was elbow down, shoulder, but I thought it was contact to the head,” Cassidy said. “I suspect (the NHL) will look at it. There was no penalty but to me that tends to be automatic in today's game. Even if it's not to the head they call it. It just seems like those are getting called simply to try to eliminate them.
“I imagine there'll be a further review and where it goes from there, that's out of my hands. David is OK. He came back later in the game. We didn't use him as much because he missed some time and we want a player's safety first. But it was good to see he was able to clear to get back in the game and hopefully is good to go on Saturday (in Vancouver).”
Things did get testy at times. Though Connor McDavid had the last laugh, he was frustrated after Jaroslav Halak stopped him on a partial breakaway and later crosschecked Joakim Nordstrom, igniting a scuffle that sent four players to the box for roughing, with neither team getting an advantage.
Chara gets 900
One day Zdeno Chara's No. 33 will hang in the TD Garden rafters. Between now and then, the Bruins captain surely will hit some notable milestones. Thursday's game against the Oilers was one of them.
The 41-year-old Chara played in his 900th game as a Bruin, joining a pretty exclusive club. The only other members are Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk, Wayne Cashman, current GM Don Sweeney and teammate Patrice Bergeron.
The milestone was not lost on Chara, who this year more than ever has been willing to express his gratitude to the game and his place in it.
“I definitely appreciate it. It's a huge honor. It's a privilege,” Chara said. “It's been obviously quite some time, but I'm very proud to be a part of this organization and I'm very thankful to have the owners like we have. They make it very convenient for me and my family to stay in this organization and Boston for as long as we have. It's been great and I'm really thankful.”
After four seasons with the Islanders and four more with the Senators, Chara signed with the Bruins in the summer of 2006. He will go down as one of the best – if not the best – free agent signings in the history of the sport.
Chara said his appreciation for the game – and for his own longevity – has grown as he's aged.
“I think you realize when you've been in the league for a little longer that with the movement and seeing players come and go, it's not easy to stay in the league. It's not easy to play for a long time if you don't take care of yourself, if you don't appreciate it, if you don't work hard, if you don't do all these little things. Before you know it, you could be on the edge of being out of the league. The competition is so insane,” Chara said.
“It's something that definitely I'm very thankful that I had the guidance very early on from a young age from my father. He kept me going forward. He kept me working hard no matter what, to not get complacent, to look forward and to live a healthy lifestyle. I think all these little things are paying off and it's probably one of the reasons that I'm still playing. I keep doing it because I love it and I'm very grateful for that.”
Chara came to the B's already well-known for his dedication to fitness and he's only enhanced that reputation with the way he's been able to remain an elite defender. He's not relied on to provide offense much any more, especially on the power play, but it's not unusual for Chara to suck up the entire two minutes of a penalty kill.
Cassidy said Chara is a great example for the young players to follow.
“You hope it rubs off. That's what you'd like to see. Does it always? No. So we have to remind them,” Cassidy said. “We have a couple of guys like that up front as well. I think eventually it will. I think that's why we've kept some younger guys around and teach them on the fly here, because we want them to learn from those guys. That was part of the plan and for the most part it's worked out. Over time, we'll see whether they've taken a page out of his book or not.”.
After the Bruins' 5-2 loss Wednesday in Calgary, Cassidy surprised absolutely no one by making some lineup tweaks for Thursday's matchup against the Oilers.
Danton Heinen went in and Anders Bjork (four giveaways Wednesday) came out, but every line except the top one was to be changed. Heinen took Nordstrom's spot on the David Krejci–Jake DeBrusk line, Chris Wagner was moved to the right wing with Backes while Ryan Donato shifted to his natural left side. Nordstrom played with center Sean Kuraly and right wing Noel Acciari.
Heinen responded with a strong game and an assist. …
Cassidy said part of the reconstruction of the lines had to do with the matchup against the brilliant McDavid and felt the Kuraly line may have given him a second matchup line after the Bergeron line. He also had fewer players on their off wings.