A little rest for the heavy hitters
|05.04.10 at 1:42 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It is easy to forget through the first two rounds of the playoffs that the Bruins are still operating without some significant depth on the blue line. Mark Stuart started skating this week, coming back from surgery for cellulitis, and Dennis Seidenberg has been a regular press box presence at TD Garden, but otherwise the injured players are in the forgotten man ether that comes with the disabled list. The de facto top four defensemen — Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick — have logged big minutes since the last week of the regular season and even though coach Claude Julien has stepped off the throttle with them a little bit as Andrew Ference has contributed and rookie Adam McQuaid has settled down, the top two pairs are still the oxen pulling the cart.
Hence, all four blueliners got the day off on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena between Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. Julien dresssed six the three Black Aces the Bruins have up with the team — Andy Wozniewski, Jeff Penner and Andrew Bodnarchuk, along with Stuart, Ference and McQuaid.
“I think it is just a matter of giving a few guys some days off here and doing something different,” Julien said. “We can still get them on the ice before the game tomorrow morning. It is just about managing that stuff.”
The other heavy hitters in the Bruins lineup got to sit Tuesday as well including Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi and Tuukka Rask. A minor reward for carrying the team to a 6-2 record through eight games but nothing major. The rest of the team only skated for a half-hour or so as it has a quite turnaround for a 1:30 p.m. flight to Philadelphia.
In terms of Stuart, the defenseman is not yet ready to make the jump back to the lineup. He has been skating for the last week and only with the full team a couple of times as of yet. He said on Tuesday that he is still on antiobiotics (until May 25) and still wears an IV cast like thing on his right arm. With him around the team people cannot help but ask if he will be ready for Game 3 but the situation is not as simple as a workout or practice. He will not be on the ice Wednesday night and the team still has to wait for medical clearance as well as for Stuart to get back to a level where he can contribute.
“Definitely no … He is not playing tomorrow, he is not ready for that yet,”Julien said. “It is a situation where he has to be medically cleared and what he has got is a bone infection. He can practice now is what we have been told, he can do some things but before we can ever consider him he has to be medically cleared and feel that he is ready to go as well.”
Stuart sees a defensive unit that has been playing well through the playoffs and knows he will have to be ready to contribute when he does finally make his return to the ice.
“It is not like we don’t have six D-men playing their best right now, cause we do,” Stuart said. “It is not going to help to play a guy who hasn’t done anything for two months just to rush him back. So, I feel good out there though and obviously I want to play but it is going to be a coaches decision when they feel like I can contribute and they feel like they need me and I will just be ready whenever that comes.”
Here are the lines from Tuesday’s skate:
Red — Begin, Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka
Defense — Wozniewski, Penner, Bodnarchuk, Ference, McQuaid, Stuart
Goaltenders — Tim Thomas, Dany Sabourin
Out — Chara, Boychuk, Wideman, Hunwick, Bergeron, Recchi, Rask