WILMINGTON — The sight of Frank Vatrano — one of the few feel-good stories of this Bruins season — skating off the ice bent over and in pain could not make fans, coaches, players or management feel good. The Bruins have seen more than their share of injuries this season: David Pastrnak, Chris Kelly, Kevan Miller, Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Brad Marchand.
While “day-to-day” has generally become meaningless around Causeway Street, that was how coach Claude Julien described Vatrano’s upper-body injury after practice on Friday. He deemed that to be “good news.”
Vatrano was hit into the boards by Nate Prosser in the second period of Thursday’s game, at 6:49 of the second period. He immediately left and did not return.
To replace Vatrano in the lineup, the Bruins expected to make a call-up for Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs. The Bruins are somewhat limited in their options with a number of their Providence forwards either out with injuries or just coming back from them.
With no replacement in sight for Friday’s practice, the Bruins opted to fill their fourth-line spot with a player new to a colorful sweater: Joe Morrow.
Morrow found a burgundy fourth-line jersey in his locker before practice instead of the black worn by defensemen, since the Bruins had just 11 healthy forwards and seven healthy defensemen. So he ran with it, despite not having played a shift at forward in a long time — so long he couldn’t remember when or if it had happened.
“Never,” he said. “When I was really little, maybe. There’s no memory of it at all.”
The defenseman, who has been a healthy scratch for the last six games, played left wing on a makeshift line with Zac Rinaldo at center and Tyler Randell on the right side.
“We tried to fill our roster up front there, so we could have a half-decent practice,” Julien said. “He didn’t look bad, though.”
And he seemed to enjoy it.
“It was fun,” Morrow said of his one-day cameo. “It was really fun. You give me another practice or two, probably comfortable enough to throw me in a game. But no — I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t know what to do out there. It was fun, though, for a practice.”
Not that anyone helped him out.
Asked if he got some pointers before heading out for practice, Morrow said, “No. Actually I don’t think anybody said a word to me, kind of hung me out to dry. I even asked the coaches for some help and he just said, ‘Oh, it’s pretty easy’ and then kind of skated away. So I don’t know. Maybe that was the plan, to just leave me out there and see how I did. You had to use your brain to try and figure out and watch everybody in line before you.”
The Bruins, in fact, have used a defenseman as a forward in at least one case in recent years. With a back injury putting Kelly in the press box at the end of the 2013-2014 season, the team was forced to use Torey Krug as a forward in a game in Minnesota. So even though Morrow won’t get to play in an actual game, he liked experiencing how the other half lives.
“I would love for all the years of just being smacked around from behind, hit on the forecheck, to be able to fly in there and hit someone else for a change,” Morrow said. “Yeah, that would be definitely something I would look forward to.”
. . .
The next two games are crucial for the Bruins,who are looking to make up ground in the Atlantic Division. Boston has a home-and-home series with Toronto on Saturday and Monday. Currently the Bruins sit two points outside of a wild card spot. “For both teams, if they’re going to work their way up, these are the games they have to win,” Julien said. “If we’re going to work our way up into the playoff position, these are the games we have to win. How important are those games for both teams? I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s extremely important.”
Lines at practice:
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jimmy Hayes
Matt Beleskey-David Krejci-Loui Eriksson
Ryan Spooner-Joonas Kemppainen-Brett Connolly
Joe Morrow-Zac Rinaldo-Tyler Randell
Zdeno Chara-Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg-Colin Miller
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid