WILMINGTON — With the March 5 trade deadline approaching and the Bruins searching for help on the blue line, the team faced more bad news on the Adam McQuaid front on Friday. The defenseman, who has spent three long stints out of the lineup totaling 28 games this season, suffered a setback this week, according to coach Claude Julien.
“It becomes day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month,” Julien said. “I’m not sure anymore.”
Before the Olympic break, general manager Peter Chiarelli had expressed confidence McQuaid would return soon after the team resumed play. With that no longer the scenario, there is “probably a little” more of an effort to acquire help on defense, a hockey source said Friday.
While there were rumors swirling that the Bruins had spoken with Ottawa about defenseman Chris Phillips, that has not happened, according to the source. Boston, though, would be interested in acquiring Phillips, who will turn 36 March 9.
The one-year rental is just the situation that would fit well with the Bruins’ plans, with the left-shot defenseman in the final year of a three-year deal.
According to TSN, Phillips is involved in talks with the Senators on a new contract. He has spent the entirety of his 15-year career with the Senators, a team that saw 17-year franchise stalwart Daniel Alfredsson leave for Detroit after last season.
However, Ottawa is only 5 points out of a playoff spot, which may limit the pieces the Senators want to trade. The Bruins have been looking to shore up their blue line since Dennis Seidenberg suffered a season-ending knee injury Dec. 27.
McQuaid was scheduled to return to the ice Friday but that didn’t happen after the training staff determined McQuaid had moved backward in his attempt to come back from a leg injury.
“It’s been a frustrating injury for him,” Julien said. “I know he’s really itching to get back and those kind of things happen. He’s set back a little bit, so hopefully we’ll get some better news here in the next few days.”
The target date for McQuaid’s return had been Saturday against Washington. He is unlikely to play in either of the team’s games this weekend.
While the team remains among the best in the Eastern Conference — trailing only Pittsburgh, by 5 points — it is doing so relying on four young defensemen in Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, and Kevan Miller.
Miller, in particular, has been huge. He was not expected to be used much at the start of the season, but he has been solid in his 25 games.
“We’ve gotten a player who’s big, strong, physical, and we’ve lost two guys that are big, strong, physical,” Julien said. “At least he’s really helped fill that hole for us. At the same time I think he’s been pretty reliable.
“You don’t see too many mistakes on his part. Moves the puck well. Very physical. We’ve seen how he can be tough as well. So he’s been a real great addition to us, especially after what we’ve been through with our back end.”
But that doesn’t mean that the Bruins couldn’t still use some help.
“Right now we’ve lost two veteran defensemen in that group, that’s why we’re extremely young,” Julien said. “Against New York [in last year’s playoffs], those guys did a pretty good job. I think as you get deeper in the playoffs it could become a concern, so we just have to work with what we’ve got right now.
“There’s a lot of scenarios that are easier said than done. That’s why Peter right now is certainly looking to improve our hockey club, but whether that happens or not I’m going to go forward with all the confidence in the world with the group that we have.
“I think that’s what we need from the coaches, and the players need to feel that confidence and every time we’ve done that it’s really turned out good for us.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.