NEWARK — Sunday’s regular-season finale, a 3-2 loss to New Jersey at the Prudential Center, had little meaning for the Bruins.
Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla, Daniel Paille, and Chris Kelly didn’t travel to Newark. The Bruins recalled Alexander Khokhlachev, Justin Florek, Craig Cunningham, and Matt Lindblad from Providence on an emergency basis.
Chad Johnson was in goal. Dougie Hamilton started as the fourth-line right wing.
But the bosses were watching closely. Assuming full health, the Bruins will carry one extra forward in Jordan Caron and two spare defensemen for the playoffs, most likely Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter.
Injuries are bound to take place in the playoffs. When they do, the Bruins will have to call upon their young players to help out.
“I need to get a good feel of those players moving forward,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’ve got one extra forward here when you look at our lineup being healthy. If we need to call some guys up, I think it’s important that I see those guys.’’
It was the first NHL game for Khokhlachev, the team’s second-round pick in 2011. He replaced Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith.
Lindblad started with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Florek rode shotgun with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Cunningham centered the fourth line. Some of the youngsters could get the postseason call.
“The goal tonight was to have a good compete level, which I think we had, a decent showing, and give those guys an opportunity to play,” Julien said. “We did all of the above. Certainly not disappointed, although you always hope to come out of here with a winning outcome vs. a losing outcome.”
Lindblad, Florek, and Cunningham project to be bottom-six NHL grunts. Khokhlachev could be a top-six forward. In 63 games with Providence, the left-shot center had 21 goals and 36 assists. Khokhlachev is second in the AHL in rookie scoring.
The Bruins believed they had traded Khokhlachev, Matt Bartkowski, and a first-round pick for Iginla last year. The deal didn’t happen after Iginla informed the Flames he preferred to play for Pittsburgh.
Khokhlachev nearly scored his first NHL goal Sunday, but Martin Brodeur gloved his attempt at 4:03 of the third. The center had two shots and won 8 of 17 faceoffs in 15:14 of ice time.
“He competes really hard,” Julien said. “He gets his nose dirty everywhere. He makes things happen. He was battling hard on those draws, so that was a good thing to see.”
Kelly, Paille sidelined
Paille (head) didn’t play. Paille was injured Saturday after taking a hit from Buffalo’s Jake McCabe. Paille was woozy after the check, but was feeling better Sunday. Paille has not been ruled out for the start of Round 1.
“He’s doing really well today,” Julien said. “We got some good news today. He’s feeling great. It’s just about going about it day to day. It’s certainly real positive news today.”
Kelly (back) missed his third straight game. The Bruins are hopeful Kelly will be available for Game 1.
Salute to Brodeur
Brodeur started in what was likely his final game as a Devil. Brodeur will be an unrestricted free agent. The lifelong Devil wants to continue playing; the team does not intend to bring the goalie back.
“He’s the ultimate competitor,” said Julien, who coached Brodeur in 2006-07. “When I was here, he worked as hard in practice as he did in games. He didn’t get upset about getting scored on. But he didn’t let anybody score on him. He never went through the motions. He’d stay afterward and do some extra. That was pretty impressive to me for a guy at that age who had accomplished so much — that he still had that edge and wanted to do some extra work afterward and work on certain areas of his game.
“He’s accomplished what he’s accomplished because of his approach and his attitude. Being a good goaltender, when you have that attitude, you go from good to great. Marty’s been a great goaltender in this league.”
Sunday marked Brodeur’s 1,259th appearance, all with the Devils. Brodeur will turn 42 May 6. He is the NHL’s all-time leader in wins (688), losses (394), goals against (2,764), shots faced (31,540), saves (28,776), and shutouts (124).
With their leadership group not in Newark, the Bruins tabbed Campbell, Thornton, and Johnny Boychuk as their alternate captains against the Devils . . . Hamilton played the first period at right wing. He switched back to defense for the final 40 minutes. Potter took his spot up front. “We know now if we need a forward who to call on. Not me,” Hamilton cracked. Hamilton played forward for a year and a half in pee-wee and bantam hockey . . . Campbell, Marchand, and Smith were the only Bruins to play in all 82 games . . . Marchand scored a third-period power-play goal and assisted on Eriksson’s one-up strike in the first. They were Marchand’s first PP points of the season. Of Marchand’s 53 points, 46 were at even strength and five (all goals) were on the penalty kill. Marchand hadn’t been a PP regular all year. Last season, Marchand scored four of his team-leading 36 points on the power play while averaging 1:44 of ice time per game . . . Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said coach Pete DeBoer will return next season . . . With two assists, Devils wing Jaromir Jagr passed Gordie Howe for eighth place on the all-time assists list with 1,050. Jagr also moved into a sixth-place tie with Steve Yzerman on the NHL’s points list (1,755).