The Bruins were already in the market for a right wing. Now they might be hunting for a center.
David Krejci will be unavailable for 4-6 weeks. The skilled center was diagnosed Monday with a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. It’s possible Krejci could miss the rest of the regular season, given the estimated timeline.
Krejci was hurt in the second period of Friday’s 5-1 loss to St. Louis. He suffered the injury while checking Alexander Steen.
This is a significant speed bump for the Bruins’ playoff push. Krejci averages 18:06 of ice time per game, second-most among team forwards after Loui Eriksson. Krejci was part of a revamped No. 1 power-play unit. He can kill penalties if necessary.
The eighth-place Bruins are 3 points ahead of the Panthers.
Patrice Bergeron will have to do most of the heavy lifting at both ends of the rink. Opponents will deploy their top defensive pairings against Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Reilly Smith.
The Bruins went 8-9-3 when Krejci was out because of previous injuries this season. They are 20-12-6 with him (7-19—26 in 38 games) in uniform.
Ryan Spooner, recalled from Providence for Sunday’s 6-2 win over Chicago, will be Krejci’s short-term replacement between Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak. Spooner is a skilled and speedy center. But he’s not as responsible as Krejci defensively. Spooner’s first-period giveaway on Sunday gave Chicago’s Kris Versteeg a breakaway that Tuukka Rask turned aside.
Krejci carries a $5.25 million annual cap hit. The Bruins could use the long-term injury exception to acquire a replacement and exceed the cap by all or part of Krejci’s cap number. They would have to be compliant if Krejci returns in the regular season. But there is no cap in the playoffs. If the Bruins make the postseason and keep Krejci out until then, cap compliancy would not be required.