TORONTO — Johnny Boychuk walked into Air Canada Centre Saturday morning without limitations. Walking, however, is not the same as skating.
The defenseman did not play against the Maple Leafs Saturday night because of an injury to his right foot. Boychuk is day to day, according to coach Claude Julien.
Boychuk was hurt trying to block an Aaron Johnson shot during Friday’s practice at Ottawa’s Carleton University. Boychuk skated immediately off the ice and needed help to limp to the dressing room.
Boychuk was on the other end of an injury last Sunday, when he hammered David Krejci in the right leg with a slap shot in a win over the Capitals. Krejci missed Tuesday’s loss in Winnipeg.
Boychuk has been Zdeno Chara’s defense partner for most of the season. Boychuk has one goal and four assists in 29 games and is averaging 20:43 of ice time, third on the team. The Bruins already are without defenseman Adam McQuaid (strained left shoulder) for up to a month.
“Obviously, it’s better when everybody’s in,” Andrew Ference said. “But it is part of the game. You adjust and bring guys in that, over the past few years, have done a great job when called upon.
“ I don’t think there’s any lost confidence in the situation we’re in. It’s something we’ve had before and we’ve been fine with it.”
Matt Bartkowski made his season debut in Boychuk’s place. Bartkowski was recalled Friday on an emergency basis.
It was Bartkowski’s 10th NHL game. He appeared in three in October last season before being assigned to Providence.
This season, Bartkowski has three goals and 21 assists in 56 games for Providence.
“Little experience, little more maturity, I guess,” Bartkowski said of his AHL consistency. “Being more comfortable. I’d say more maturity as a player.”
Bartkowski had one shot and three hits in 13:05 of ice time, and was on the ice for two of Toronto’s three goals.
In the first period, Bartkowski couldn’t complete a clearing pass to Brad Marchand. Seconds later, Nazem Kadri beat Anton Khudobin. In the second period, Bartkowski appeared to screen Khudobin on Mikhail Grabovski’s goal.
“I got back in time,” said Bartkowski, who had pinched before retreating on Grabovski’s goal. “The guy kind of pulled up. I guess I could have just went at him and hit him. But it was a tough spot.”
The 24-year-old Bartkowski has been on the bubble before. He was sharp in training camp in 2010-11 and 2011-12. But Bartkowski struggled with his confidence and decision-making during regular-season games.
“Bart was good tonight. Bart was fine,” said Julien. “Our back end was fine. When you look at those two guys who haven’t played much for us this year, whether it’s Bart or Johnson, I didn’t find there were any issues on the back end. They only had 13 shots. It was mostly on the offensive side.”
The Bruins require stout play from their forwards in the neutral zone. If they apply back pressure and steer opponents into their coverage, they can snuff out attacks swiftly.
But if they’re misfiring in center ice, the defensemen have to back off. In turn, opponents can gain clean entries into the Bruins’ zone. That’s why the Senators had speed with the puck in Thursday’s 2-1 Bruins win.
“We have to bring them to an area where we can close on them before the red line,” Patrice Bergeron said. “We’d been doing a good job of that earlier in the year. Now, we’ve slipped away. They’re coming with so much speed that our D’s can’t gap up as much as they’d like to.”
The Bruins chased the Leafs in center ice on their first goal. Once John-Michael Liles settled the puck to start the counter, the Leafs stayed ahead of the Bruins with crisp puck movement. Liles hit Clarke MacArthur, who got the puck up to Kadri before Marchand could close.
Peverley in lineup
Rich Peverley returned to the lineup against Toronto. He was a healthy scratch Thursday for the first time in his Bruins career. Peverley began the game as the No. 3 right wing alongside Jay Pandolfo and Ryan Spooner. In the third period, Peverley skated with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell as Julien shortened his bench to three lines. Peverley had three shots in 13:21 of ice time . . . Jordan Caron was a healthy scratch. He had dressed for eight straight games, and was without a point in his last seven. Lane MacDermid also was scratched . . . The Leafs honored former captain Mats Sundin before the game. Sundin was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November . . . Joffrey Lupul finished serving his two-game suspension Saturday. Lupul was banished for his hit to Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman’s head on Wednesday . . . Toronto lost Liles in the second period when he injured his left leg during a collision with Paille . . . Shawn Thornton fought Colton Orr two seconds after Toronto’s first goal. Orr landed a string of rights early. Thornton got in a late left.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.