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Pregame B’s notes for Garden

11.05.09 at 1:16 pm ET
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David Krejci became at least the fifth documented case of H1N1 virus in the NHL this season when the Bruins announced that the 23-year-old pivot will miss tonight’s game against the Canadiens with what’s commonly referred to as the “swine flu.”

The B’s have termed Krejci out indefinitely and the center is being quarantined until he is both symptom-free and fever-free for a 24 hour period, per Center for Disease Control regulations. Vladimir Sobotka takes Krejci’s place centering the second line between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and will presumably fill the nifty forward’s roll on Boston’s sputtering power play.

Rookie winger Mikko Lehtonen was recalled Wednesday night from Providence to replace Krejci on an emergency basis, and will skate on the fourth line right wing with Shawn Thornton and Trent Whitfield.

B’s coach Claude Julien said that Krejci began feeling the symptoms immediately after Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss to the Red Wings, but Krejci’s road roommate, Byron Bitz, didn’t seem to be feeling any of the early symptoms of the virus.
It’s unknown at this point how long Krejci will be out, but his 23-year-old immune system could be a major help toward a speedy recovery. It’s not out of the realm that Krejci could be back in time for Saturday’s tilt against the Buffalo Sabres.

Thirty-eight year old Islanders forward Doug Weight missed three games and a full week of action after contracting H1NI in mid-October, but 23-year-old Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid missed minimal practice time and no games due to the illness. Smid skated against the B’s last week after quickly recovering from his bout with the swine flu.

Julien wasn’t expecting any sympathy and certainly won’t get any from those outside the New England area as the B’s battle both the swine flu and whatever manner of airborne illness has afflicted their power play.

“We just have to deal with our own issues and hope that he gets better quickly,” said Julien. “This is the reality of what’s going on in North America these days and we’ll be aware of it and do the best we can. Everyone involved is taking all the precautions we can to avoid it. Unfortunately, it’s still around us.

“David Krejci is not around the team, and hopefully that’s where it will stop. But there is no guarantee. We are all vulnerable to it. We just have to deal with it the best way we can.”

Wheeler said that the team has recently installed more hand sanitizers in the TD Garden dressing room and at the B’s practice facility in Wilmington, and the young winger even has a bottle of hand sanitizer in his car for moments of need.

“It’s a league-wide issue right now. You have to take normal steps of using a lot of hand sanitizer and not putting your hands in your eyes – all of the stuff that your mom taught you when you were little,” said Wheeler. “You have to be very careful. You have to take it to almost an OCD level right now.

“Last few days, I don’t even know why but guys started carrying hand sanitizer a little more on this road trip. I just started using it more and more all the time. We have a lot of bottles at home. I even have one in my car. It’s just the nature of the world we’re living in. You’ve got to be careful.”

For a team that hasn’t scored in their last 132 minutes, 58 seconds of action and is 0-for-17 on the power play entering Thursday night, missing a big play guy like Krejci isn’t necessarily the recipe for an offensive breakthrough.

But the Bruins players are done with the injury excuses and victim of circumstance alibis that have permeated the team through the first month of the season. It’s all about wins and losses, and getting on the scoreboard starting tonight against a Montreal Canadiens team that needs a win just as badly as Boston. Though Krejci was off to a slow start with a goal and four assists in 14 games, his elite offensive skill level certainly will be missed.

“[The Krejci illness] kind of took me by surprise like everyone else, but that’s the way of the world today,” said Wheeler, who was just reunited with Krejci and Michael Ryder prior to the Detroit game. “It’s kind of been like that so far this year: it’s been one thing after another. But we have enough guys in here that can get the job done.

“We’re definitely very confident in what we bring to the table. There are no excuses any more for this team. No moral victories. It’s all about getting the job done.”

–Bitz is out of the lineup Thursday night against the Canadiens with a balky groin, and Julien said that the bruising forward has been recovering a bit more slowly than expected. Bitz did skate separately from the team prior to their morning skate, and could be ready within a matter of days. Lehtonen will take Bitz’s spot on the fourth line’s right wing, but doesn’t bring the same physical element to the table.

“He has become a day-to-day,” said Julien. “We were actually hoping that he would be better quicker and that didn’t happen. It’s why we brought him on the road. Hopefully it’s just a matter of days if everything continues to go well.”

–Lehtonen was understandably excited to be skating with the big club, but one gets the feeling that the team is running through the appropriate farm team reserve players more quickly than they’d prefer. The rangy winger should bring a little offense and skill to the fourth line, but he’s not exactly a hard-charging, board-rattling grinder in the mold of players like Steve Begin and Thornton.

“He’s the best player available, let’s put it that way,” said Julien. “We have called so many guys up. [Brad] Marchand, [Vladimir] Sobotka, [Trent] Whitfield, and now he is the next one on the list. Hopefully he is one of those guys. He has a big body, skates well, has skill and maybe he can help us produce a little up front.”

–Canadiens coach Jacques Martin confirmed that it will be Carey Price in net for the Habs. Tim Thomas will get his third straight start for the Bruins after playing solidly against both the Rangers and Red Wings during the last road trip. Price is 2-6 with a 3.63 goals against average and an .883 save percentage, and the 22-year-old hasn’t won a game in over a month dating back to an Oct. 3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

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