Just when it seemed the Bruins were getting some good news on the defensive front, with Kevan Miller cleared to play, the news came Wednesday that Adam McQuaid will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken thumb.
McQuaid was injured Tuesday night against St. Louis when he was hit by a puck shot by Kevin Shattenkirk. McQuaid left the ice at 4:59 of the second period and did not return, nor was he at TD Garden during Bruins practice Wednesday as he was still being examined.
General manager Peter Chiarelli announced just after 3 p.m. that the thumb was broken.
“It’s funny because now Millsy’s cleared to play and we lose another guy,” said Milan Lucic. “It’s just like, OK, where does it end? We’ve just got to, I guess, rally as a team.”
McQuaid’s injury, of course, is far from the first the Bruins have suffered on defense this season. Miller dislocated his right shoulder Oct. 18. Zdeno Chara tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Oct. 23. Torey Krug broke his left pinky finger Oct. 28. David Warsofsky suffered a groin strain Nov. 6.
That leaves 21-year-old Dougie Hamilton and his 126 career NHL games as the second-most experienced Bruins blue liner, behind Dennis Seidenberg (635). And Hamilton missed practice Wednesday with flulike symptoms, which could mean the Bruins would need to recall Zach Trotman, who was sent down Tuesday.
The Bruins haven’t done much better on offense, with David Krejci in and out of the lineup, and Brad Marchand currently dealing with an undisclosed injury that kept him out against the Blues. Marchand remains day to day, and he also did not practice Wednesday.
For McQuaid, this has been an exceedingly difficult stretch. He played just 30 games last season because of a quad injury that later led to his decision to have ankle surgery, which finally ended his season and shortened his summer.
He returned this year to play well with expanded responsibility, up from the bottom-six role he’d played in recent seasons. He was averaging 19:25 of ice time, and had played in all 20 games this season, the final one on his contract. McQuaid is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
“Last year was a tough thing for him to go through,” coach Claude Julien said. “He could have easily gone home last summer and done all his rehab. He chose to stay here and do it with our people because he wanted to come back at 100 percent.
“So you feel bad for a guy like that because he’s hurt and you respect him a lot because of what he does to get back.”
But that’s far from all that McQuaid has been through. He had surgery after a blood clot was found near his collarbone in October of 2012. He stayed healthy through the lockout-shortened season, but then was in and out of the lineup last season before eventually just staying out.
“I couldn’t control what happened, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were times that I was kind of like, hey, what’s the purpose behind all this?” McQuaid said a little more than a month ago. “I’d kind of scratch my head as to, when am I going to finally get over all this injury stuff?
“It seemed like it was just one thing after another, and I think the worst thing you can do is let that frustration . . . you start thinking negatively and that’s a downward spiral in general for hockey and life and everything. It was a learning experience that way.”
McQuaid now will get almost two more months to learn.
“Awful,” said Seidenberg, who was out much last season with a knee injury. “He had a tough injury last year, and to get that this year, it’s not fun. He’s very disappointed. He’s been playing well. He’s been playing hard. Just unlucky, I guess.”
And unlucky for the Bruins, who were benefiting from McQuaid playing some of the best hockey of his career, averaging almost four minutes more than the career-high 16:03 he averaged last season, and almost five minutes more than his career average of 15:00.
“Some players seem to be more apt to more injuries than others, and sometimes you just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Julien said. “He does a great job of doing a lot of things.
“He doesn’t mind blocking shots, he doesn’t mind throwing his weight around, he doesn’t mind dropping the gloves when he has to. He’s a guy that will do whatever it takes to win hockey games.
“You feel bad for a guy like that because you appreciate having a player like that in your lineup, and you wish you had him for more than just spurts here and there.”