Nathan Horton will miss his seventh straight game today because of a concussion. It will not be the last.
After yesterday’s practice at TD Garden, coach Claude Julien acknowledged that Horton has suffered a setback. Horton first skated on his own last Sunday. But Horton’s post-concussion symptoms, which have included headaches, resumed once Horton hit the ice.
“He’s been pulled back,’’ Julien said. “He’s got some symptoms. So we’ve pulled him back. It’s hard for me to come out every day with a step forward, step backward. He’s back to square one. We’re giving him some time here. Those symptoms, once he got on the ice, came back.’’
Horton suffered the concussion Jan. 22 when he was hit by Philadelphia’s Tom Sestito.
Given the nature of concussions, it is impossible to project when Horton could be back in uniform. He would have to resume workouts on the stationary bike, skate on his own, join his teammates for practice, and be cleared for game action. Horton will not play against the Rangers Tuesday. It is unknown whether he will join the team for its six-game road trip.
It might not be a coincidence that David Krejci, Horton’s regular center, has fallen off during the right wing’s absence. Krejci has just one assist in the six games Horton has missed.
During yesterday’s practice, Krejci centered the third line between Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron. Rich Peverley practiced in Horton’s spot flanking Milan Lucic, with center Chris Kelly.
“If we had all three lines going, I don’t think we’d be losing as many games,’’ Julien said. “It’s just the logic of things. This is what’s happening right now. We’ve got [Patrice] Bergeron’s line, who’s the most consistent line of all right now. They’re spending a lot of time in the offensive zone and creating some opportunities. But we haven’t had as much from the other lines. We need more. When we had that from the other lines, we were winning hockey games.’’
As the Bruins have stumbled through parts of January and February, Julien has yet to play his best card: pairing defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. That may not come until the playoffs, when the two could form a power pairing like they did last season.
“There’s still 30 games left to play,’’ Julien said. “They’ve played together before. They know that. It’s certainly something we’ll look at down the road, I’m sure. Because when you play the same team on numerous occasions, you certainly adapt to those kinds of things. It really served us well last year.’’
Chara and Seidenberg were paired for Game 3 of the first round after the Bruins had lost the first two games to Montreal. It was one of the most important reasons the Bruins went on their run. The two played heavy minutes against top lines. The other four defensemen fell into place behind Chara and Seidenberg.
“I don’t think we need much time at all,’’ said Seidenberg, when asked if he’d like some regular-season action with Chara before the playoffs. “Last year, we read off each other really well. When we would keep it simple, that’s when we were at our best. I don’t think we need much time at all. It’s just a matter of us communicating and reading off each other.’’
If and when Chara and Seidenberg are paired, the Bruins would be better off with another left-shot defenseman. Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk could be the second pairing. Adam McQuaid will most likely be on the right side on the No. 3 duo. Joe Corvo would have to switch to the left side if the Bruins don’t add another defenseman.
Part of yesterday’s practice was spent on drills emphasizing speed over the offensive blue line. When the forwards are clicking, they are building up speed in the neutral zone and crossing the blue line at full sprint. “I think it all starts with the way we backcheck and the way we create options for our defensemen,’’ Lucic said. “When we’re skating back, working back hard, and giving them outs for them to make good breakout passes or passes through the neutral zone, that’s when we’re able to create that speed and come up together. Now, it almost seems like we’re so far apart from each other. As forwards, we’re getting ourselves stranded on an island. Two guys are over here, you’re over there by yourself, you get the puck, and it’s one against four. Nothing comes of it.’’ . . . Assistant coach Geoff Ward halted one drill to insist on hard, crisp passes instead of floaters. “Stay away from the sauce!’’ Ward yelled. “Put the puck on the tape!’’ . . . Nashville is nine points ahead of eighth-place Phoenix in the Western Conference. The Predators will be looking to add before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. They’re led by ace defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. “They play together a lot,’’ Julien said. “That’s where you rely on your depth as a team. If they’re going to shut down certain players, then other players have to step up and do their share. This is something we do a lot to other teams. This is a team capable of doing it to others as well.’’ . . . Ex-Bruin Brian McGrattan should be in today’s lineup for the Predators. McGrattan (61 penalty minutes), who most recently tangled with St. Louis’s Ryan Reaves, has reestablished himself as one of the league’s toughest fighters. McGrattan didn’t dress for the Bruins last year, but his presence helped push Shawn Thornton toward one of his best seasons.