WILMINGTON — The second it happened, Dennis Seidenberg knew it felt different. He had suffered MCL injuries before, but nothing quite like this. He felt a click.
There were less than five minutes to go in last Friday night’s game against Ottawa, and Seidenberg limped off the ice.
“I was following the play, but I heard it,” goalie Tuukka Rask said. “He got hurt and I heard that, then I turned around and asked if he was OK. He was just mumbling something. Obviously he was hurt.”
The defenseman tested the knee out in the locker room with the team’s trainers, getting a sense of what the injury might be. But he didn’t really know until the next day and the MRI.
He had suffered a torn ACL/MCL in his right knee. The recovery time is 6-8 months.
“Very disappointing,” Seidenberg said Monday after the Bruins’ practice at Ristuccia Arena. “It’s tough luck the way it happened, but at the end there’s nothing I can do. It’s all about getting it fixed now and preparing for next season.”
Seidenberg will have surgery on the knee, likely in the next week or two.
He will see Dr. Peter Asnis Tuesday, and the surgery will be scheduled based on the swelling in the area. He said it was “pretty painful” at the time of the injury but doesn’t feel bad at this point.
“It’s totally off,” Seidenberg said of the MCL, “so they’re going to put a couple stitches in the MCL as well. Sometimes it heals quick, just doesn’t get back to where it was tightness-wise. So we’re going to make sure it’s nice and solid, put some stitches in.”
He added, “I talked to Dr. Asnis and he explained to me when it rips it stretches and stretches and stretches and tears. Ligaments don’t heal back together. They don’t get tighter, they just heal together and stay loose. So we want to make sure it gets back to being stable so I can feel solid coming back.”
Seidenberg said that former Bruin Marco Sturm contacted him Sunday with words of encouragement. Sturm tore his ACL and MCL in the 2010 playoffs with the Bruins and had surgery to repair the area. Other players also have reached out, he said.
Seidenberg said he expects to be around the team the rest of this season. Though, he added, “It’s going to be annoying watching it from upstairs because you’re always the best player when you watch from up top, but it’ll be also a learning experience for me.’’
The good news for Seidenberg — and for the Bruins, with whom Seidenberg signed a four-year, $16 million contract at the start of the season — is that the defenseman expects to be back to his old self once the surgery and recovery have been completed, and be ready for the start of training camp for the 2014-15 season.
“It used to be when you had an ACL it was career-ending, I guess,” he said. “But nowadays I think they know how to take care of it and they say I’m going to be back to normal, hopefully. It just takes a while.”
He said his focus will not be on recovering faster than the timetable, but instead on healing properly.
For now, the Bruins will be without their No. 2 defenseman, a player who forms a shutdown pairing with Zdeno Chara in the playoffs. That won’t be an option this season, with the Bruins instead relying on a group of very young, very inexperienced defenseman to fill in the gaps.
“He’s the prototype good defenseman, both ends of the ice,” Rask said. “He can do it all. It hurts to lose a guy like that, but it’s not the first time this happens to us, and we have the luxury as an organization to have that depth that guys can step up from the minors.”
The Bruins still have Chara — who missed Saturday night’s game with an undisclosed injury, but who was back on the practice ice Monday — and Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid. But behind those three are Dougie Hamilton, also injured, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, and Kevan Miller, who was called up on an emergency basis but should stay.
Asked if that means the Bruins will require more from those players, coach Claude Julien said, “Sometimes I think we overanalyze those kind of things. Guys have to step up, do more. I’m going back to what I said — I’m not expecting Torey Krug all of a sudden to turn into a hitting machine. He’s going to continue to play his game.
“It’s just a matter of guys playing their best and it’s up to us as a coaching staff to try and put the pairs together depending on who we play against and what the situation is.”
It won’t be easy.
But the Bruins have proven over the past couple of years (and weeks) they can be resilient, and they’ll need to be to get to their ultimate goal without one of their best defensemen.
“I think like you’ve seen in the past, we always seem to step up in tough times, and I don’t see it happening any differently,” Seidenberg said. “We have a lot of young guys playing in Providence or playing up here already that have played great, great hockey and great minutes. I don’t see a reason why they shouldn’t keep going on like that.”