Just when it seemed like the Boston Bruins were starting to get fully healthy again the injury bug has taken yet another bite out of them.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy and forward Brad Marchand were both absent from practice on Friday, and while both players will travel for the team on their upcoming road trip to Buffalo, neither is likely to play in Saturday’s game against the Sabres.
McAvoy is technically back on IR, and while that will keep him out of the lineup on Saturday he would still be eligible to play in Tuesday’s Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium.
He missed Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils with a lower-body injury.
Marchand also exited Thursday’s game after taking a high hit in the third period of the Bruins’ loss. His status remains uncertain.
The timing of McAvoy’s latest injury is unfortunate because it came on the same day that the team welcomed back Zdeno Chara following a 19-game absence. Chara and McAvoy are the Bruins’ top two defenders and have already combined to miss 40-man games this season due to injury. They have been in the lineup together for just seven games this season, and none since Oct. 18.
How big of a deal is that for the Bruins? Just consider that duo spent more than 860 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time together last season and were downright dominant when they were on the ice. Now that they can’t even get in the lineup on the same day.
Combine that situation with the 16 games that Patrice Bergeron has missed this season, as well as the 11 games that Torey Krug has missed, and the Bruins have been without four of their top players for an extended portion of the season. In fact, the Bruins have not played a single game this season with all four of them in the lineup together. That streak will continue through at least Saturday with McAvoy now sidelined again. They have only had three of the aforementioned in the lineup together in 17 games this season. They have been without three of them in eight games.
After losing back-to-back games the Bruins find themselves in the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, three points back of the Buffalo team they are playing on Saturday for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, and four points ahead of the non-playoff teams. It’s probably not where they expected to be at this point in the season, but we also haven’t really seen them at full-strength yet. When you consider the team isn’t overly deep to begin with, especially at forward where the team is largely carried by its usual top-line of Bergeron, Marchand, and David Pastrnak, it is somewhat impressive they have managed to maintain such a strong hold on a playoff spot.