Patrice Bergeron has had groin trouble for several years. Rather than have surgery last offseason, he took a platelet-rich plasma injection after the Stanley Cup Final run ended in June.
But speaking before puck drop against the Capitals, coach Bruce Cassidy wouldn’t point there as the reason his No. 1 pivot missed his first game of the season on Saturday. Bergeron, third on the team in scoring (8-11—19), was listed day-to-day with a lower body injury.
“I’m not going to say it’s new, old or somewhere in between,” Cassidy said of Bergeron’s ailment. “He finished the game [Friday] night in a little bit of discomfort. If it wasn’t a back-to-back, we’d hope he’d play. Since it’s back-to-back, we’re going to be careful.
“We don’t want him to end up missing four, five games, or something worse. So he gets the day off. I think they call it in Canada, the Raptors, ‘load management.’ So maybe we’ll label it as that for now and see how he is the next game in Jersey.”
In Friday’s victory in Toronto, Bergeron skated 16:48, his lowest total in his previous seven games, and his fourth-lightest workload in his 19-game season to date. The Bruins are off Sunday and will practice Monday before visiting New Jersey on Tuesday.
With Bergeron out, the Bruins recalled Providence leading scorer Paul Carey (7-6—13) and put defenseman Torey Krug on injured reserve to make room. Carey, the 30-year-old Weymouth product, rode the third line with left wing Trent Frederic and center Par Lindholm. While Lindholm skated 10:31, and took regular turns in the third period, Carey (6:22) and Frederic (4:16) were not trusted to hop the boards after the midway point of the second.
Cassidy did not exclude rookies Anders Bjork (15:35) and Urho Vaakanainen (19:19) from the overtime, both taking shifts. Vaakanainen rewarded him by producing a scoring chance, dancing around Jakub Vrana and stuffing a backhand on goal.
“Good for them in the long run” to see big-boy hockey, Cassidy said. “You hope it makes them better in the long run.”
The Bruins loaded up on their top players. Logging north of 22 minutes: Brad Marchand (24:52), Charlie McAvoy, David Pastnrak, Matt Grzelcyk, and David Krejci, the latter centering the Marchand-Pastrnak duo, as he did last November when Bergeron missed a month with a rib/sternoclavicular injury.
Coyle, skating on Krejci’s right wing of late, moved back to center a No. 2 line with Bjork and Danton Heinen. He extended his point streak to four games (2-3—5) and scored the opening goal in 20:25 of work.
Krug, hit high along the boards by Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux last Saturday, missed his third contest since. He leads all defensemen in power-play assists (11), and has a 2-11—13 line in 17 games.
The Bruins did not hold a morning skate Saturday, but Krug was one of four injured Bruins to take a twirl in Brighton. Brett Ritchie (upper body), Jake DeBrusk (lower body), and John Moore (shoulder) also skated.
Cassidy said Ritchie could be available Tuesday.
Kevan Miller (knee) and David Backes (upper body) did not skate. Same goes for Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn, rookie wingers out several more weeks. Kuhlman has a cracked right tibia, while Senyshyn is listed more vaguely as “lower body.”
The Bruins dropped their third shootout decision in the last four games, Coyle’s opening goal answered by Nicklas Backstrom and Vrana, and are now 0-4 in shootouts.
“We do need to address it,” Cassidy said. “We have, but maybe we need a little more time on that.”
They are also 0-1 in overtime. On Saturday they pushed the pace in OT, but didn’t fall victim to Ovechkin and Co. in 3-on-3.
“Tonight we gave up a little more than we’d like,” Cassidy said. “Most teams are probably on the shorter end of it against them in overtime, in terms of chances, just because of what they can roll over the boards in those situations.”
Washington netminder Braden Holtby, who tied Carey Price for the league lead in wins (10), has seen his numbers normalize (2.97 GAA, .904 save percentage) after a miserable start.
Holtby, 10-1-3 overall, played poorly in his first five starts (1-1-2), allowing 18 goals on his first 117 shots (.846). Since giving up three goals on three shots and being yanked Oct. 14 in Colorado, he has been strong: 25 goals on 327 shots (.924), posting a 9-0-1 record.
That Colorado game seemed to be a turning point for the Capitals. In a month-long run without a regulation loss, between Oct. 14 and Friday’s 5-2 setback in Montreal, defenseman John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin moved into the top 10 in scoring leaguewide.
Ovechkin scored his 14th goal of the year on Friday. The Bruins held him to one shot attempt through 40 minutes — he landed three of four in the third period, and seven hits on the night. Carlson added another assist Saturday (8-24—32), keeping pace with Marchand and Pastrnak for third in the scoring race.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports.