OTTAWA - When Johnny Boychuk struggled off the TD Garden ice Tuesday night, placing no weight on his left leg, the Bruins feared their No. 3 defenseman had suffered a season-ending injury.
They got better news than that.
On Thursday, coach Claude Julien announced that Boychuk had suffered a mild sprain. Boychuk is day-to-day, according to Julien.
“It’s good news,’’ Julien said.
Boychuk missed Thursday night’s game against Ottawa because of the injury. There is no definitive word on whether Boychuk will be available for the start of the playoffs. Game 1 will most likely be Thursday at TD Garden. The Celtics have a home game Wednesday.
That Boychuk can even be considered a possibility for the playoffs is positive for the Bruins. Boychuk was injured when he collided with Arron Asham in the third period of a 5-3 loss to the Penguins. Play was halted as Boychuk was unable to get to his skates. With help from Chris Kelly and Brian Rolston, Boychuk left the ice. Boychuk walked out of the Garden with a heavy limp.
Boychuk is considered one of the toughest players on the team with a high tolerance for pain. On Dec. 28, during a 2-1 overtime win over Phoenix, Radim Vrbata drilled Boychuk with a shot below the belt. Boychuk didn’t miss a shift. On Feb. 25, Ottawa’s Chris Neil steamrolled Boychuk with an open-ice hit. Boychuk slammed the back of his head on the Scotiabank Place ice and suffered a concussion. Boychuk missed only two games.
Boychuk is a vital piece of Boston’s blue line corps. In 77 games, he has five goals and 10 assists. Boychuk is averaging 20:36 of ice time, third-most on the team behind Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. The right-shot defenseman projected to be on the second pairing alongside Andrew Ference to open the playoffs.
Options in play
If Boychuk can’t go when the first round opens, Joe Corvo could slide into the vacant position. Like Boychuk, Corvo is a right-shot defenseman. In 73 games, Corvo has four goals and 21 assists. Corvo has 45 games of playoff experience, the most recent being seven matches in 2010 for Washington.
It might not be that simple.
The Bruins have been pleased with the performance of Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau on the third pairing. With a full complement of defensemen, Mottau projected to be No. 8 on the depth chart. But the chemistry between Zanon and Mottau has created a pair whose sum is greater than its parts.
“They’re safe D’s,’’ Julien said. “They’re safe. They don’t overextend themselves. They defend extremely well. They make the simple passes. Both those guys are intelligent defensive defensemen. They move the puck well. They play their positions well. In Mike’s situation, having played in New Jersey for a while on a team that really excels in that area, that’s certainly helped him out, as well. I thought that made his transition a lot smoother coming to our hockey club. Zans has always been a great shot-blocker. He’s one of those guys that seems to fit into our system extremely well. He doesn’t have to run around. He does a great job of playing his position.’’
If the Bruins keep Zanon and Mottau together as a third pairing, they could bump Adam McQuaid up to the second pairing with Ference. Chara and Seidenberg will remain together as the shutdown duo. That would make Corvo the odd man out to start the series if Boychuk can’t play.
“It’s being on the same page,’’ Mottau said of his chemistry with Zanon. “When you get the puck, it’s having the ability to see those options. It’s a nice feeling when forwards are continually doing the same thing over and over, shift after shift. You have a game plan when you’re going back to get the puck and making the simple play. It’s the right play. I think that’s what Zans and I do best.’’
McQuaid in and out
Adam McQuaid returned to the lineup after missing three straight games. However, he was limited to seven minutes of ice time. McQuaid skated one shift in the second and didn’t play in the third.
“He didn’t feel quite right,’’ said Julien. “It was very, very minor. The trainer just came to see me, and I told him it would be safer to take him out. I was OK with that. He might be OK tomorrow. We weren’t going to take a chance at this point.’’
McQuaid was not diagnosed with a concussion after being blasted into the TD Garden end boards by Jason Chimera March 29. The hit opened a cut over McQuaid’s left eye, which was swollen shut for several days.
McQuaid played with a visor on Thursday. He does not usually wear a shield.
Krug gets first point
Torey Krug earned his first NHL point by assisting on Milan Lucic’s third-period goal. Krug had one shot and three blocks in 15:57 of ice time. Thursday was Krug’s second NHL game. He made his big league debut Tuesday. “Just the way he handled the puck and moved, he seemed a lot more confident than the first game,’’ said Julien. “He skated and moved the puck so well. I really liked his game tonight. I thought he was a solid contributor. Certainly a really good player for us.’’ . . . Mottau was the healthy scratch on the back end. Up front, Lane MacDermid was the healthy scratch . . . Nathan Horton resumed skating on his own Wednesday. Julien was loath to disclose how Horton was feeling after the skate. “Don’t read too much into it,’’ Julien said. “He just started skating. It’s a situation where he’s still not even close to where you guys might think it is.’’ . . . David Krejci was the third alternate captain . . . Zanon blocked 10 shots; the Senators totaled eight.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.