BUFFALO — No. 1 center Patrice Bergeron, No. 2 on the Bruins scoring list through 45 games, was a surprise last-minute scratch prior to the Black-and-Gold facing off Friday night vs. the Sabres.
According to coach Bruce Cassidy, Bergeron was sidelined due to a lower-body injury.
“So he’ll be day-to-day, until we hear differently,” said Cassidy, whose club left for Pittsburgh right after the loss. “He’s our No. 1 center, so we miss him in a lot of situations, but we’re a pretty good team. We have depth....”
Cassidy made no mention in his late-morning Zoom presser that Bergeron might be sidelined. However, he made note late Thursday night, following a 5-1 win over the Sabres, that Bergeron had been hindered during the game by a blocked shot.
With Bergeron sidelined, Charlie Coyle moved up from No. 3 center and into Bergeron’s pivot spot on the No. 1 line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Coyle was among the many who showed little on the night.
In a related move, ex-Sabre Curtis Lazar, obtained by the Bruins at the April 12 trade deadline, slotted into Coyle’s No. 3 hole on a line with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.
Taxi squadder Anton Blidh was called into duty at left wing on the No. 4 line, with Sean Kuraly shifting over to center. Chris Wagner remained as the line’s right winger.
Bergeron, named captain to start the season, very rarely has moved out of the lineup with niggling injuries throughout his career. To the contrary, he often has found ways to solider through a chronic groin/abdomen/core injury that has often hindered him in recent years.
With Bergeron moving to the sidelines, with a line of 18-23—41 through the club’s first45 games, it left Ritchie as the lone Bruin to suit up for all 46 games thus far in the season.
Cassidy estimated Friday morning that 75-80 percent of the personnel on this trip, including players, coaches, and support staff now had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I’m guessing here, but I think we are up [to] 75-80 percent,” he said. “Some guys have had, or they are coming out of COVID, so I don’t think they would qualify yet — like Jaro [Halak], for example, he just came out of it.”
Cassidy was uncertain if the injured players Brandon Carlo and Ondrej Kase, who remain in Boston, had been vaccinated.
Cassidy said “we knew that might happen” when noting that a few of his charges “looked fatigued” in the game Thursday night, which started less than 48 hours after many of the players received their vaccinations.
“We want to get the players vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he added. “That’s everyone that travels, specifically, so we at least reduce [the risk] in house, so we don’t have to shut down. And it’s for everyone’s family’s sake as well, and for society’s sake, we want everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“If we can get it done internally around us, that certainly helps for the continuity of the season — you take a chance that there’s a reaction, but I think that’s behind us now.”
Miller back on the ice
Kevan Miller, who revealed on a podcast Thursday that he had been hospitalized recently for a foot infection, was back in the lineup here, paired on the backline with newcomer Mike Reilly.
“Part of my skate was rubbing on the top of my foot — it’s been like that for years,” explained Miller. “Never really had an issue. I don’t know where I got the infection — called cellulitis — in my foot. I spent a few days in the hospital. Just unfortunate luck. They were careful about it, but it felt good tonight, no issues, and hopefully no issues going forward.”
The infection flared up some 10 days ago, last Wednesday, and came with a high fever, said Miller. He was admitted to the hospital on Thursday.
“I’ve been on heavy antibiotics,” he added, “so I think we’re on the other side of it.”
Miller, recovering from a season lost to a fractured kneecap, will not play on back-to-back nights, likely for the remainder of the season. To play him Thursday would have meant sitting him out on Friday.
But now, back in action, Miller should be available for the Sunday matinee in Pittsburgh, and the trip wrapper there on Tuesday.
“Once the puck drops, he’s going to play,” said Cassidy. “There is no, ‘Well, we’re going to keep him to 18 minutes instead of 22. It will depend on situation, and it will depend on time and score.”
Faltering at the dot
Bergeron, among the league’s very best faceoff artists, uncharacteristically lost 12 of 18 faceoffs here Thursday in the 5-1 win over the Sabres. However, he took shots and landed five of them on net . . . Halak, dressed as backup to Jeremy Swayman (5-1-0) on Thursday, again was on the bench as Rask’s backup. Cassidy said after the loss here that Swayman will make the start Sunday (3 p.m.) in Pittsburgh, and Rask will be back in there Tuesday to wrap the series with the Pens. The Bruins will arrive there with only 10 games remaining in the regular season and Halak, who had a long stay on the COVID protocol list, will need to get in some work to recover game shape with the playoffs on the horizon . . . With Bergeron out, the No. 1 power play, still backed by Matt Grzelcyk as the lone true point man, had Coyle moving to the front line with Ritchie, Marchand, and Pastrnak. The No. 2 unit, with Charlie McAvoy the point man, had Taylor Hall, Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, and Craig Smith as the forwards.