Those Atlantic Division rivals, forever trying to one-up each other.
The Maple Leafs will be missing 47-goal scorer and newly appointed captain John Tavares — out at least two weeks with a broken finger — for a Saturday night showdown in Toronto with the Bruins. The visitors will be down at least one of their top two centers, and a valued fourth-liner.
Coach Bruce Cassidy said after Friday’s practice that David Krejci, whose undisclosed upper-body injury has lingered, will miss his third game in a row. Boston also may be without Patrice Bergeron, who took a wrister by Tampa Bay’s Ryan McDonagh off his leg with 25 seconds left in overtime Thursday.
“Little lower-body last night,” Cassidy said of Bergeron, who finished that shift in Boston’s 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay.
Bergeron did not practice Friday, but he will travel with the team to Toronto. Cassidy said Krejci, who took a cross-check to the right side from Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf on Monday, will not travel because of an injury that “turned out to be worse than we thought.”
Also staying home: Joakim Nordstrom, who took a few bumps late against the Lightning and reported upper-body soreness. Like Krejci, he is listed as day to day, neither injury considered long-term.
The Bruins have enough bodies for the one-game roadie if Bergeron plays and David Backes, a healthy scratch the last three games, draws in on the fourth line. They also could dip into their Providence reserves.
The most intriguing of the potential call-ups is Anders Bjork. The former Notre Dame star has 6 points in five games (3-3—6) for the P-Bruins, as he tries to regain his touch following two shoulder surgeries that ended his first two pro seasons.
Bjork, who was a standout in camp, formed a solid-looking trio last month with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen, the latter playing his off wing.
“We wanted him to go down and find his offensive game, and he has,” Cassidy said. “Is it enough of a sample size to say he’s ready to play in the NHL? Until we bring him up, that’s a hard question to answer.
“We wanted it to be a prolonged amount of time, whether that was one month, 10 days, two months. Five games is probably a little bit of a short sample supply, but he’s certainly passing the test down there, if we decide to go that route.”
Peter Cehlarik is another possibility, but Bjork, tied for second in the AHL in points through the first two weeks, has shown the most in the bigs. For a team that’s hunting for goals from anyone not named David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, or Bergeron, he may be difficult to deny.
“He was as good as some of the other guys here [in camp],” Cassidy said. “We just felt, go establish your offensive game, which he is doing, or in the process of doing. Is it enough where he’s going to come up here and be confident and do it here? That’s what we’re hoping for in the end, and I can’t answer that until he gets here.”
Cehlarik, in his fourth AHL season, has opened with three goals in two games. First-year captain Paul Carey is also a known commodity for Boston’s coaching staff. Former Vancouver property Brendan Gaunce saw his chances evaporate on Friday night, however, when Laval’s Michael McCarron leveled him with a center-ice hit away from the puck five minutes into the game.
No penalty was called, but Gaunce was stretchered off the ice. P-Bruins coach Jay Leach said after the 3-2 loss in Quebec — about an hour flight from Toronto — that Gaunce is week to week.
Gaunce, who has 194 games of AHL experience and 117 as a Canuck, posted a 3-1—4 line in his first five games with Providence.
A day off
Several veterans sat out Friday’s practice, including those healthy (Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Marchand, and Pastrnak) and not (Bergeron, Krejci, Nordstrom). Krug logged a team-high 25:50 in Thursday’s shootout loss . . . Jaroslav Halak will start in net Saturday, with Tuukka Rask likely to get the call Tuesday at TD Garden in the return date with the Leafs . . . Five Bruins aside from the top line have scored: Brett Ritchie and Danton Heinen (in the opener in Dallas), Krug (at Vegas), Chara (at Colorado), and Nordstrom (against New Jersey). The list of zeroes includes Krejci and his wingers, Jake DeBrusk and Karson Kuhlman, as well as Coyle, who refused to call it a slump. “The hard work is there,” he said, “but the end result is not coming right now. A lot of times when you go into slumps is when you’re doing the right things and you’re not getting the results, but you’re getting away from it. We’re not far off. We’re right there.”