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Without Patrice Bergeron, Bruins’ lines are a mess

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In their first three games of the season, the Bruins had to play without Patrice Bergeron and his absence was felt in all areas of the game.Maddie Meyer

If all is right with Patrice Bergeron, he will be fit to practice with his Bruins teammates Wednesday, which would put him in line to make his season debut the following night at TD Garden against New Jersey.

Then, in theory, all will begin to be right with his team.

The Bruins returned from their three-game season-opening road trip with wins over Winnipeg and Columbus. They consider any banking of points most welcome, especially considering they had none after the first three games last year (all at home, no less).

The 4 points came despite injuries. Bergeron wasn't the only Bruin unable to skate against Winnipeg, Toronto, and Columbus. Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid, the team's two defensemen with the most robust injury profiles, also were unavailable. And Tuukka Rask was too low on battery, citing soreness following the Columbus game, to start in goal against Toronto.


"We've got a lot of new faces in our lineup," coach Claude Julien said after Monday's 4-1 win over the Jets. "It's probably not a bad way to start on the road and take some pressure away.

"But also, anytime you can come off a road trip with a winning record, it's a successful one. I like the way our guys competed tonight. We didn't have a very good game in Toronto. But the way we competed tonight and bounced back was actually nice to see our club react that way."

Three games without Bergeron, however, were three too many for the Bruins. They suffered without their best player, missing the way he touches the game on multiple fronts.

"Everywhere. Everywhere," Julien said before the Winnipeg game when asked where he missed Bergeron the most. "He's a leader. He's the best two-way centerman, I think, in the league. He can score some big goals. He can certainly shut down top players.


"We miss him. But at the same time, this is a great test for our hockey club to show that we have guys that can come in and help us out. As a group, we can certainly overcome those things.

"We've got three veterans right now that are on the injured list. That's part of hockey. It's going to happen at any time. We have to show we're ready to fight through those situations and continue to have success."

David Backes, Bergeron's top-line replacement, played his temporary role well. Backes and first-line wingmen Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined for eight of the Bruins' 12 goals on the trip. The threesome did everything required of a first line: skate hard, create chances, play good defense, and blunt opposing teams' momentum. The line may not have performed better even if Bergeron were manning his usual five-on-five position.

The trouble was the trickle-down effect of Bergeron's absence.

David Krejci, who expected to have Backes on his right flank, had to babysit rookie Danton Heinen instead. Ryan Spooner, a natural center, was Krejci's left wing. While the first line played boisterous hockey, the second line skated quiet, meek shifts.

Third-line wings Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes flexed their muscles on the walls and in front of the net. But Austin Czarnik lasted only two hushed games as their pivot before he was directed to the press box against Winnipeg. The No. 3 line finished the trip without a goal to its name.


Bergeron is one of the best bumpers in the league, manning the high slot on the power play with brains, strength, and quickness. Without Bergeron, Heinen had to take some of his shifts with the first unit. The five-man group had a tough time doing much of anything against Winnipeg, from gaining the zone cleanly to sustaining any kind of offensive pressure. By the third period, the No. 2 unit took most of the shifts.

One of the current trouble spots is Krejci's game. The center, who is coming off hip surgery, appears to need more time to find his pace and hands. Having Backes go back to Krejci's right side will help the center. He could also use some assistance on his left wing. Beleskey would be in line for a promotion to the second line. Beleskey and Backes could use their straight-line speed and muscle to bang bodies and give Krejci the room he needs to create chances.

The left-shot Heinen could play his strong side next to Spooner, while Hayes can stay as the No. 3 right wing. The fourth line could be Riley Nash between Dominic Moore and Noel Acciari.

Tim Schaller, Moore, and Acciari played a sound grinding game against Winnipeg. A trip to Providence would give Czarnik the ice time he needs to clear his mind and regain his confidence.

The Bruins are in good shape after three games. They'll be in even better condition once their best player is back.


Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.