CHICAGO — When Nathan Horton skated off the ice Wednesday night, bent over, the Bruins’ power play in the first overtime was still going on around him. At that moment, it didn’t look good for the right wing. He didn’t hesitate on the bench, heading straight for the trainer’s room, not to return.
There was little news on Horton’s status Thursday, one day after the Bruins fell to the Blackhawks in three overtimes in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, with coach Claude Julien saying only that Horton was “day to day.”
Nor was there any specific information on the nature of the injury, with the Bruins their usual tight-lipped selves. Horton, though, did miss the final five games of the regular season after a fight with Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla resulted in an upper-body injury.
Asked if he had spoken to Horton Thursday, Andrew Ference played coy.
“We had a good breakfast. Omelets.”
If Horton can’t play in Saturday night’s Game 2, the loss would be significant. The Bruins already are without Gregory Campbell, who suffered a broken leg in the last round against the Penguins. And Horton has seven goals and 11 assists in 17 playoff games this year.
“He’s been good,” Julien said. “Look at his statistics, and you look at what he’s accomplished. Even [Milan] Lucic’s first goal, what a great heads-up play by him. He’s been really good, so, like I said, keeping our fingers crossed here that he’s back with us hopefully next game.”
Horton missed the final four games of the Stanley Cup Final against Vancouver in 2011, after suffering a concussion when hit by the Canucks’ Aaron Rome in Game 3 in Boston.
This time, the likely move would be to put Tyler Seguin on the first line with Lucic and David Krejci.
That was what the Bruins did after Horton was injured in Game 1, and Seguin seemed to pick up his intensity and show off his skills.
And improved play from Seguin — who has one goal in his last 22 games — is something the Bruins could use.
“He’s been skating well,” Julien said. “To me, right now the only thing he needs to do now is to be able to finish, and if he can finish it’ll certainly help his confidence, help our hockey club. But not criticizing his work ethic because he’s competing hard and he’s got some chances. Those things are certainly a positive thing.
“There’s only one thing left to do, and you hope for his sake and our sake that it comes along.
“He had some chances. He’s got the speed to be up there with them. He’s got the skill. For him it’s an opportunity right now. He did a great job, and we’ll see where everybody stands here by Saturday.”
Patrice Bergeron, who spent much of the regular season with Seguin on the second line, said his former linemate was “skating really well. He had some great looks, especially in overtime, he had some good chances. When he’s on his game, when he moves his feet, when he uses his speed like he did last night, he’s really tough to defend.”
The Bruins have three likely options if Horton has to miss Game 2: Jordan Caron, Jay Pandolfo, and Carl Soderberg. Caron, a right wing, would seem to make the most sense.
“We’ve worked everybody hard,” Julien said. “They’ve been pushed and they’ve done extra — forwards and [defensemen] included. There’s nobody in that extra squad group that isn’t ready to step in right now.”
Ference said, “It’s hard to quantify how much you miss somebody. He’s obviously a big part of our team, and he’s done a lot of big things on goals, on plays. No matter what team you’re on, when one of your top six guys is out for a couple periods, you’re going to have some impact.
“But in saying that, what happens in the playoffs, that’s usually one of the better story lines is somebody that does step into a role like that, performs. We have the depth.”
The Bruins, of course, are hoping that extra depth won’t be needed.
“Nate’s been one of our best players,” Chris Kelly said. “He’s done everything that’s been asked of him. He’s one of the reasons that we’re here right now. For Claude to say that he’s day to day is great news.”
And the Bruins have dealt with enough injuries this season to know they can only wait to hear about Horton’s status.
“If he’s in, he’s in,” Ference said. “If not, then somebody else has to step up.”