BOSTON -- Ultimately, the players dictate the end result on the ice, but a team's identity and preparation begin with the coach.
Bruins coach Claude Julien has evolved in his eight seasons in Boston, but his coaching ability is really being put to the test this season, as a rash of injuries in the first 22 games has wreaked havoc on his lineup.
It certainly doesn't ease his burden when the Bruins have to play the Montreal Canadiens.
With five veteran players -- Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Chris Kelly -- sidelined by injuries, the Bruins had their three-game win streak snapped, when they lost to the Canadiens 2-0 on Saturday night at TD Garden.
Kelly became the team's latest victim Friday, when he suffered an undisclosed injury during a 4-3 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Julien said Saturday that the extent of Kelly's injury and how long he'll be sidelined are unknown at this point.
The one thing we've learned about Julien is he thrives on consistency. He believes in chemistry. But the Bruins' synergy has been disrupted by the injury bug.
Meanwhile, Julien and his coaching staff are attempting to keep the Bruins motivated and relatively successful until that time comes.
"It's important for us as a coaching staff to really stay positive and upbeat," said Julien, who coached his 800th career game Saturday. "Having said that, I think our players are doing a really good job of that, as well."
When he looks around the locker room, Julien does not see discouragement among his players, though it's obvious he sees disappointment. Julien added that he needs to focus on coaching and developing the players he has on his lineup sheet any given night, whether that's a completely healthy, veteran team or one relying on a bunch of rookies to contribute.
"Our guys have got a great attitude -- the guys that are playing -- and that's why they deserve a lot of credit," Julien said.
The positives might outweigh the negatives, but things haven't always been perfect for Julien in Boston. There have been times in his Bruins career when his job was in jeopardy. Each time, however, he was able to motivate his team, and the players responded.
Case in point: Montreal had a 2-0 series lead in the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals after Boston lost both games on home ice. But then the Bruins went to Montreal, evened the series at two apiece and eventually won the series. That spring, Boston won the Stanley Cup.
That historic run, along with a return to the finals in 2013, has given Julien job security. If the Bruins keep from drowning this season, earn a playoff berth and make another deep run, it will be just as impressive as what this team accomplished in recent history.
"Obviously, everybody knows what's going on, and we can't start thinking about when [injured players] are coming back because then we're going to lose our focus," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. "[Julien's] been really good at just focusing on the game on the ice and working with the guys we have and making sure we keep building our team in the right direction."
With Saturday's loss, the Bruins are 1-7-2 in their past 10 regular-season games against Montreal. That ineptitude alone is brutal enough, not to mention what happened during the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this past spring, when the Canadiens defeated Boston in Game 7 on TD Garden ice to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
This season, Boston is 0-3-0 against Montreal and has one matchup remaining Feb. 8 at TD Garden. These teams could very well face each other in the playoffs again this season, and somehow Julien needs to figure out a way to beat the Canadiens.
When asked if the Canadiens hold some sort of mental barrier over Boston, Rask dismissed such a notion and said that's not the feeling in the locker room.
"We recognize when we play good and when we don't play good," Rask said. "Today, we played a good game and could have easily gotten a point or two. Then again, sometimes we just don't play good at all against them, and it [becomes] psychological."
It must be difficult for Julien to suffer such losses against a team he once coached and one that seems like a thorn in his current team's side. His players realize the job Julien is doing during this tough stretch. Despite Saturday's loss, the Bruins are still 8-3-0 in their past 11 games.
"With our roster right now, it comes down to coaching and getting your guys prepared to play," said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who also missed four games earlier this season with a broken finger. "Obviously, through our system, there's a lot of guys ready to play in the NHL, so it comes down to management and coaching doing a great job, and it falls on us to perform."
The players have bought into Julien's system. Julien has been dealt a seriously compromised hand so far, but he's not ready to fold. If anything, this adversity should make everyone involved stronger, and that strength starts with the coach.
In the closing seconds of overtime against the Blue Jackets, Lucic had lost his stick and was jawing with Columbus' Dalton Prout. As Lucic approached, Prout quickly dropped his gloves and landed a punch to Lucic's face, dropping him and leaving him with a bloody, swollen mouth. The Bruins eventually won 4-3 in a shootout, but Lucic was not happy with what he and the Bruins consider a cheap shot, because Lucic never dropped his gloves.
"I didn't like it, but the good thing is we get to play them two more times," said Lucic, who added he had no intention of fighting since the game was basically over.
"I let him know that I wasn't going to fight him, so I wasn't prepared and I let my guard down and that's what happens sometimes when you let your guard down," Lucic said. "I've been in over 100 fights and I never took a shot like that, so like I said, we get two more opportunities to play the Blue Jackets and I'll be ready."
Lucic said that he's been on the other side of similar situations, but the key difference is he has held off after an opponent has refused to drop the gloves.
"I find it gutless," Lucic said of Prout's cheap shot.
The veteran forward suffered an undisclosed injury during Friday's 4-3 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and was not available Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.
Without five of their veteran players -- Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Kelly -- in the lineup due to injuries, the Bruins had their three-game winning streak snapped as they lost to the Canadiens 2-0.
After the loss, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he does not know the extent of Kelly's injury, or how long he will be sidelined.
"I could say day-to-day, but we don't know, we don't know right now," Julien said. "And our medical staff has not given me any indication of how long the injury is going to take. It's one of those that I think they've got to feel as the days go by."
As a result of Kelly's injury, rookie Matt Lindblad was recalled from Providence on Saturday morning and was in the lineup against the Canadiens. After placing Marchand on injured reserve retroactive to last Sunday, the Bruins also called up Jordan Caron, who was a healthy scratch against Montreal.
Without five of their veteran players -- Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Chris Kelly -- in the lineup due to injuries, the Bruins had their three-game win streak snapped as they lost to the Canadiens 2-0. Boston had to rely on rookies Alex Khokhlachev and Matt Lindblad as reinforcements from Providence of the AHL, and Bruins coach Claude Julien went with three totally different line combinations in an attempt to find a way to beat the Eastern Conference leaders. To their credit, the Bruins hung in against the Canadiens but couldn't generate any offense against Montreal goalie Carey Price, who recorded the shutout and finished with 33 saves.
The Canadiens own a 3-0-0 record against the Bruins this season.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask's career record against the Canadiens dropped to 3-12-3 in 18 games. He has yet to beat the Canadiens at TD Garden in the regular season. On Saturday, he finished with 21 saves.
The Canadiens gained a 1-0 lead at 11:37 of the first period, when Andrei Markov scored a power-play goal. With the faceoff to the left of Rask, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron lost the faceoff, and the puck trickled back to Markov, who took a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. Rask never saw it through traffic.
Boston had an opportunity to create a quality scoring chance late in the second period, but the Canadiens capitalized on a turnover and gained a 2-0 lead. The Bruins were breaking in on Price with Carl Soderberg controlling the puck in the slot. Instead of shooting, he elected to pass, but the puck never made it to Milan Lucic, as the Canadiens gained control and, in transition, went the length of the ice to beat Rask at 8:59. Things only got worse for the Bruins in the waning minutes of the second period. Montreal created sustained pressure in the offensive zone for nearly two and half minutes, and the Bruins were too tired (plus, Bergeron was without a stick) to clear the puck. Finally, Bergeron got his hand on the puck and tossed it out of the zone. However, he was called for delay of game because he closed his hand on the puck before shoveling it out of the zone.
Montreal stifled Boston's attack again in the third period en route to victory. A tough stretch of games continues for the Bruins when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday at TD Garden.
DROP 'EM: The Bruins' Gregory Campbell dropped the gloves with the Canadiens' Dale Weise at 13:17 of the first period. It was a spirited bout at center ice, with both connecting on a few shots. Fans and players from both teams applauded the bout. With Boston clearly frustrated and trailing by two goals midway through the third period, the Bruins' Torey Krug dropped the gloves with the Habs' Alex Galchenyuk at 8:46.
MILESTONE: Claude Julien coached his 800th NHL game Saturday. He has a combined 442-260-10-88 record with Montreal (159 games), New Jersey (79) and Boston (562).
The Bruins recalled forwards Jordan Caron and Matt Lindblad from Providence of the AHL. Lindblad was in Boston's lineup Saturday night, while Caron was a healthy scratch. The Bruins also assigned defenseman Zach Trotman to the P-Bruins.
Krejci missed his second consecutive game and 11th overall because of an ongoing, undisclosed injury. Marchand will miss his third straight game, and earlier Saturday, he was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury. The IR designation is retroactive to Sunday, meaning Marchand is eligible to return to action Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Krejci participated in the team's pregame warm-up before Friday's 4-3 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he was a game-time scratch. He last played during Tuesday's 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues.
The Boston Bruins erased a two-goal, third-period deficit en route to a 4-3 shootout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night at Nationwide Arena.
Bruins rookie Alexander Khokhlachev scored the game-winning goal in Round 7 of the shootout in his first game with the Bruins this season, and only the second of his NHL career. Boston has now won eight of its past 10 games.
With the Blue Jackets in the rearview mirror, the Bruins quickly shift their focus to the Montreal Canadiens. Boston hosts its heated rival Saturday night at TD Garden. The Canadiens already enjoy a 2-0 advantage over the Bruins this season.
SIDELINED: The Bruins were without the services of top-line center David Krejci, who has been dealing with an ongoing, undisclosed injury this season. He made the trip to Columbus and participated in the morning skate, but was a game-time scratch. Knowing Krejci's status was questionable, the Bruins had called up Khokhlachev from Providence of the AHL on Thursday. He was thrust into the lineup and delivered the clutch shootout goal.
MASKED MEN: Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to give backup goaltender Niklas Svedberg the start against the Blue Jackets. After allowing two tough goals in the first period, Svedberg responded and was solid the rest of the way, finishing with 25 saves. He was a perfect 7-for-7 in the shootout. With the Bruins hosting the Canadiens on Saturday, Tuukka Rask will likely get the nod. He has a career 3-11-3 record against Montreal and served as the backup last week as the Canadiens defeated Boston 5-1 at Bell Centre. Maybe Rask can find some luck playing at home against the Canadiens.
GROOVING: Despite a pair of penalties against the Blue Jackets, Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski continues to find his groove. He's been a healthy scratch for the majority of the season, and when he did play early on, he struggled. Due to so many injuries on Boston's blue line, Julien has no choice but to play Bartkowski, and to his credit, he has responded the past two games. He played probably the best game of his career Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues, and he followed that performance up with a pair of assists Friday against Columbus.
RUSTY: Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller returned to the lineup Friday night after missing 13 games with a dislocated shoulder. Since fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid suffered a broken right thumb Tuesday against the Blues and will miss six to eight weeks, Miller's presence is welcomed. He logged 20:10 of ice time against the Blue Jackets, though he'll no doubt need a little more action moving forward to find his timing.
Depth, trades, inconsistent play, injuries and call-ups have all made headlines for the first 20 games of the 2014-15 season. At the start of training camp, general manager Peter Chiarelli raved about the organizational depth on defense. That depth has been tested time and again this season, and it's also one of the reasons the Bruins are surviving one of the worst injury-plagued campaigns in recent memory.
"We really felt we had some good depth on the back end, and it's showing now," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Whoever we bring up seems to be doing a decent job, and a lot of guys that are here now are going to make it difficult for us when it's all said and done. There's a pretty good competition going on again on our back end."
It certainly didn't help when Kevan Miller suffered a dislocated shoulder and Torey Krug missed four games with a broken pinky finger.
Boston has had its difficulties on defense, but the additions of Joe Morrow, David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman have helped neutralize those deficiencies. Morrow has been the most consistent during his nine games. Warsofsky played only four games after his recall from Providence before suffering a groin injury and remains sidelined. Trotman also played nine games; he was recently assigned to Providence but then quickly recalled after Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid suffered a broken thumb Tuesday. McQuaid will miss six to eight weeks.
The young defensemen's presence is turning Matt Bartkowski into a better player. After spending the majority of this season as a healthy scratch, he played the best game of his career Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues. Obviously, watching younger players earn the opportunity over him helped motivate Bartkowski.
Morrow, a former first-round pick (No. 23 overall) by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011, has played well for the Bruins. He's known for his offensive ability, but he's been reliable on defense.
"Things are going pretty solid," Morrow said. "Just trying to keep things simple, stay in the lineup and contribute in a way that I haven't really contributed before, kind of the whole defensive aspect of things."
He has helped calm the Bruins' early-season woes with his hockey sense, his consistency and his ability to move the puck out of the zone. Morrow possesses a big shot and won't hesitate to pinch in the offensive zone when needed, but his sound two-way play can be relied upon by management, the coaching staff and his teammates. He's finally seizing his opportunity.
But once Boston's entire blue line is healthy, management will have some difficult decisions to make.
"Your first game can either make or break everything," Morrow said. "If you come in here and don't live up to expectations, or you don't play as well as they thought you were going to play, then it definitely sets you back a couple of paces."
Morrow wants to prove he can cut it on this level and wants to leave a lasting impression that he can contribute in Boston for a long time.
Morrow and Trotman have played well for the Bruins. Boston isn't pleased with its start to the season, but the team remains in contention in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division because these players have made significant contributions on defense.
"It's a huge step forward for our organization, and having so many guys that they can count on and rely on to play big minutes for us," said Bruins assistant captain Chris Kelly.
But now, at age 29 and a as member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Horton's career could be over. He hasn't played in a game since last April, was placed on the team's injured non-roster list on Oct. 5 and is out indefinitely due to a degenerative back injury.
His former teammates, along with the entire Bruins organization, are distraught over the news. With the Bruins in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets on Friday night, Bruins president Cam Neely, coach Claude Julien and several players discussed Horton's situation Thursday.
"I feel for him. I feel for anybody that potentially has their ability to play taken away from them," said Neely, who saw his own career end prematurely due to injuries. "It's very sad. You get to this level, an elite level, it's what you want to do, you want to play."
Neely can empathize with Horton. The Hall of Famer dealt with thigh and knee injuries and attempted comebacks but was forced to retire in September 1996.
"It's very difficult to come to a conclusion," Neely said. "Ultimately, you get as much information as you can from doctors and the medical staff, then you probably don't want to believe what they're telling you and think you can get back to playing. Then it becomes really about quality of life."
Horton spent three seasons in Boston and helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup finals twice, winning in 2011.
"It's too bad," Julien said. "He's still a young player, and as everyone knows, he was a great player for us here.
"It's too bad to see a young player like that have to make a decision on his career at such a young age with so much potential. You feel for him."
In his time in Boston, Horton joined Milan Lucic and David Krejci to form the Bruins' potent top line.
"You obviously feel for the guy. He's a really, really great player, and a good friend, as well," Krejci said. "It must be tough for him."
After the 2013 season, Horton signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent and landed a seven-year deal worth $37 million. He was limited to only 35 games last season.
"The financial part is nice, but that's not what brings you happiness," Julien said. "Right now there's no doubt, for a guy like him if he doesn't come back and play, what do you do at the young age of 30, saying 'I'm not able to do what I've done my whole life.' It's a pretty big blow to a young player like that."
Bruins assistant captain Chris Kelly suffered a season-ending back injury last April and needed offseason surgery to repair a herniated disk. When he arrived at training camp healthy and ready for the season, he talked about how the back issues interfered with his ability to perform normal daily routines. He couldn't pick up his kids and had trouble eating and sleeping, which are the kinds of things Horton is experiencing.
"That's extremely difficult what he's going through," Kelly said. "Obviously, he wants to be playing. Everybody wants to be playing hockey when you've done it your whole life, and when it's taken away from you like that it's a difficult thing."
He traveled with the team to Columbus and will be available to play against the Blue Jackets on Friday night.
The 21-year-old centerman has played 15 games for the P-Bruins this season, posting five goals and 11 assists for 16 points, including a plus-2 rating. He’s played a total of 91 games in Providence and has 28 goals and 48 assists.
He was recalled on an emergency basis last Saturday in Montreal but did not play. He was sent back to Providence the next day. Khokhlachev made his NHL debut for the Bruins last season against the New Jersey Devils on April 13.
Bruins veteran forward Brad Marchand did not travel to Columbus and remains in Boston with an undisclosed injury.
Marchand missed Tuesday's 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues with an undisclosed injury and did not practice Wednesday. He did practice with the team Thursday, but will remain in Boston.
"He skated but I don't think we're going to bring him on the trip," Julien said. "We're going to give him some more time, but he felt much better, so he's doing better day-to-day."
Marchand suffered the injury in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes last Saturday. In Marchand's absence, Matt Fraser has been playing the left wing on the second line, along with Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith.
Also, the Bruins recalled defenseman Zach Trotman from Providence of the AHL on an emergency basis. He practiced with the team Thursday and will travel to Columbus. The 24-year-old defenseman has played nine games for the Bruins this season.
After missing Wednesday's practice due to flu-like symptoms, Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton practiced Thursday.
BOSTON -- The Bruins are in the midst of a season-long injury plague, and there are no signs of it ending anytime soon.
Injuries to key players have hampered the team’s success, but somehow the Bruins continue to find ways to win. They’ve struggled with inconsistency the entire season, and there’s only one way to deal with the amount of injuries they’ve accrued.
“You don’t want to panic, and you shouldn’t panic to start with,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “But you don’t want to show panic because players can read off management and coaches very easily. Right now, we feel we still have people we can put in place that will continue to keep us competitive, and I don’t think we’ve been wrong so far.
“With everything we’ve been through, we’re not happy with our game. We’re not standing here saying, ‘We’re playing great hockey.’ But we are showing a lot of character by hanging in there and winning hockey games, such as the one [Tuesday] night.”
Defenseman Kevan Miller was activated from IR on Tuesday and was a healthy scratch, but since McQuaid suffered his injury during a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues, Miller likely will return to the lineup.
Fellow defenseman Torey Krug suffered a nasty broken pinky finger and needed upward of 30 stitches to zip up his finger. Fortunately for the Bruins, he only missed four games. Even when the Bruins summoned reinforcements from Providence, defenseman David Warsofsky suffered a groin injury.
The Bruins received a shot in the arm when Krejci returned to the lineup Tuesday night. More importantly, it was a sigh of relief for the team when he practiced Wednesday morning.
Marchand remains day-to-day, and he could practice on Thursday before the team travels to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets Friday night. Chara is progressing in his rehab but he hasn’t been cleared to skate, which still could be a while.
Then Dougie Hamilton missed Wednesday’s practice due to the flu.
The challenge for Julien is to figure out ways to keep the team’s lineup fresh and productive. He’s always said he’ll get the most out of the players he’s given to work with, and he’s being tested this season.
“You’ve got to just adapt to those situations and try to fill in those spots. Just when you start getting guys back, other guys are going down. We’ve been unfortunate more than other years so far with those injuries,” Julien said
During Julien’s tenure in Boston, only the 2009-10 season rivals this one in terms of the number of injuries. During that season, the Bruins survived, finishing third in the Eastern Conference, and eventually lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinals.
If a team has to have injuries, it’s better to have them earlier in the season as opposed to late in the year with the playoffs approaching. And, when a team is dealing with numerous injuries, players try to put a positive spin on the adversity.
“The main thing is opportunity,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said.
That means the organization’s depth will be tested, and in the case of the Bruins, they’re exhausting their resources. Each time a player has been recalled from Providence of the AHL, he's made contributions, especially on the defensive end with Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman. Morrow has proven he can handle the NHL. He’s big, strong and reliable at both ends of the ice.
Lucic described the adversity as a rallying cry among the players. If younger players can contribute, it helps the team gain confidence no matter which player or players are out of the lineup. It also adds an element of assurance and helps invigorate the veterans.
If the Bruins can continue to survive all these injuries and stay in contention, when Boston’s lineup is healthy again it could finally find its identity.
“Overall, our record is pretty decent with everything we’ve been through,” Julien said. “Right now it’s about trying to get through this as best we can, and hopefully when our team is totally healthy, and we’re hoping it does get totally healthy, we’ll really get a good idea of what our team is all about.”
It might be early spring before that happens for the Bruins. But that would be perfect timing.
Early in the second period of Tuesday's 2-0 win against the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden, McQuaid blocked a shot by Kevin Shattenkirk. It was evident McQuaid was hurt on the play as he began to shake his hand in pain, but he remained on the ice for another minute while St. Louis had Boston hemmed in on its own end. When the Bruins finally cleared the puck, McQuaid went to the locker room and did not return.
"It's tough," Krug said of McQuaid's injury. "I'm pretty close with Adam and I know how hard he works and how it's been frustrating going through all the injuries. He's going to work hard and he'll be ready to come back whenever he's ready. Hopefully, when he does he can stay healthy."
McQuaid had played in all 20 games for the Bruins this season and was averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time per game.
"Awful," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
David Krejci, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing the previous four games with an ongoing, undisclosed injury, did practice Wednesday.
McQuaid suffered what appeared to be a right hand/arm injury early in the second period and did not return. Marchand is dealing with an undisclosed injury he suffered during Saturday's game, and it’s not known why Hamilton did not practice.