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Bruins’ self-proclaimed defensive depth being put to test 10.20.14 at 10:56 pm ET
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Matt Bartkowski

Matt Bartkowski

In the offseason, Peter Chiarelli said he felt the Bruins had nine NHL-caliber defensemen. A 10th, he would later say, was close in Zach Trotman. It was hard to disagree.

Then the B’s traded Johnny Boychuk. Then Kevan Miller dislocated his right shoulder in a fight Saturday night, leaving him out indefinitely.

You can bet that all the defensive depth you’ve heard about now will be put to the test.

The obvious replacement with Miller out of the lineup is Matt Bartkowski. The Bruins would take turns sitting guys to find ways to get him in the lineup last season before Dennis Seidenberg‘s knee injury gave him a full-time job. With a healthier group this season, Bartkowski has been limited to just one game.

After that, David Warsofsky is the only remaining blueliner from the summer’s advertised group not on the roster. The B’s had to put him on waivers in order to send him to Providence at the end of training camp, but nobody claimed him. In five AHL games this season, the 24-year-old Warsofsky has no points and a minus-5 rating.

The thing with both Bartkowski and Warsofsky is that they are both left shots, while Miller is a righty. The Bruins, as you’ve probably noticed by now, like to play with a lefty on the left and a righty on the right unless it’s a Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg (both lefties) type of pairing.

There have been other exceptions to the lefty-righty rule, as Torey Krug played a bit on the right side down the stretch last season and Seidenberg has played on the left when paired with Bartkowski. It’s worth noting that the Bartkowski-Seidenberg pairing has struggled when used in games dating back to last season before Seidenberg’s injury.

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Kevan Miller being examined for ‘upper-body’ injury at 12:56 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien said Monday after practice that defenseman Kevan Miller is being examined for what the team termed an upper body injury following a fight Saturday in the 4-0 win in Buffalo.

“He’s just being looked at by our doctors,” Julien said. “We will probably have more [Tuesday].”

Julien also said he likes the way Seth Griffith has looked early in the season and would probably benefit from playing with the top line of David Krejci and Milan Lucic, as was the case Monday in practice.

“I think anytime a player can play with some experienced players, it gives you a little bit more confidence,” Julien said. “Guys are pretty good with helping guys through and giving them the opportunity to get accustomed to our team, get accustomed to his line so it certainly helps. I think that’s what Seth has been doing right now, trying to soak up as much as he can.”

The key right now to allowing Griffith to gain some experience at the NHL level is Simon Gagne. The 34-year-old veteran played with Lucic and Krejci on Saturday night in Buffalo. He also has skated on the fourth line in games, as was the case again in practice Monday. Julien said he liked what he saw from Gagne on Saturday night.

“He was OK. What you saw today is probably what you’ve been seeing all along, a little bit of moving around,” Julien said. “He can play on that line, he play on the fourth line. I think he’s made the fourth line a pretty good line. If Seth is going to play, he needs to play on one of those lines right now. If he’s going to gain some experience, I think it’s with those guys. We can alternate Simon in those positions and that’s what we’ve been doing so far.”

All of this, naturally, results from the fact that the Bruins are still searching for an answer at right wing on their top line and Julien is trying to find the right combination early in the season while still being patient with young players like Griffith, Ryan Spooner, Matt Fraser and Craig Cunningham.

“You have to be a little bit patient,” Julien said “Fortunately, today for the players, you have to be able to bring some young guys in. There was a time when they really had to pay their dues and learn the game in the minors before they even got a shot. But in today’s game, you have to bring some young guys in for reasons like the cap and everything else. So you have to be able to live with some of the learning curves they have to go through and, at the same time, as a coach you try to minimize those so it doesn’t cost your team. That’s the balance you have to have in letting a young guy gain some experience and get better.”

It’s homecoming week against the Bruins as they host Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night at the Garden. On Thursday, Johnny Boychuk makes his first return to Boston since being traded to the Islanders in the preseason.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Kevan Miller,
Seth Griffith gets work on top line with David Krejci, Milan Lucic at 10:57 am ET
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Seth Griffith

Seth Griffith

WILMINGTON — Seth Griffith was recalled Monday and was immediately placed on the top line in practice with David Krejci and Milan Lucic.

Other notables from Monday included Matt Fraser and Simon Gagne taking turns on the burgundy line featuring Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille.

The second and third lines remained intact, with Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith while Carl Soderberg centered Chris Kelly and Loui Eriksson.

The defense pairings consisted of Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski, and Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid.

The Bruins dressed just six defensemen in practice as Kevan Miller was absent. He left Saturday’s game following a fight and did not return with what the team termed an upper-body injury.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Kevan Miller, Seth Griffith,
Kevan Miller leaves with upper-body injury as Bruins shut out Sabres 10.18.14 at 9:38 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton had goals for the Bruins. (Getty)

Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton had goals for the Bruins. (Getty)

The Bruins had to play with only five defensemen Saturday night, but three of them scored as the B’€™s took an easy 4-0 win over the Sabres.

Niklas Svedberg, playing in his third career NHL game, picked up his first NHL shutout with a 32-save performance.

After Kevan Miller had left the game following a fight, Dougie Hamilton scored his first goal of the season on a wrist shot from the point and picked up a secondary assist on a Zdeno Chara blast to make it 2-0 in the first period.

Torey Krug netted his first of the season as well, taking a puck off the boards and beating Jhonas Enroth with a wrist shot at 11:40 of the second. Just over three minutes later, Carl Soderberg roofed a backhander in front to make it 4-0.

The Bruins will next play Tuesday in Boston against the Sharks.

Here are some observations from the game:

– Miller left after fighting Nicolas Deslauriers on his fifth shift of the game, leaving the B’€™s to manage with five defensemen for the vast majority of the game. After the game, Claude Julien told reporters that Miller sustained an upper-body injury in the fight.

The task for Bruins blueliners became tougher in the second period, when an early penalty from Adam McQuaid and a late penalty from Dennis Seidenberg meant more responsibility and minutes on the penalty kill for the rest of Boston’€™s defense.

– Speaking of penalties, the Sabres are so bad this season. The Bruins took seven penalties, giving Buffalo nearly 13 and a half minutes of time on the man advantage, and the Sabres still failed to beat Svedberg.

– Saturday marked Simon Gagne’s first full game playing with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. He didn’t land a shot on goal, but Gagne’s plus-10 Corsi was tied for second among all players, with only Krug fairing better with a plus-14 Corsi.

– The Bruins were terrific in front of the net in offensive zone, with Reilly Smith putting in the work on the goals scored by Hamilton and Chara, while Krejci getting in front of Enroth off the faceoff facilitated Krug’s goal.

In their own end, the B’s were just as tough. They blocked a ton of shots against the Sabres, getting in front of 22 of them.

– Another game, another great showing from Carl Soderberg’€™s line. He and Chris Kelly lead the team with five points apiece.

Patrice Bergeron had the assist on Hamilton’s goal, giving the Bruins center 499 career points. That ties him with Adam Oates for 13th all-time in Bruins history. Just a hunch, but the guess here is that he gets to 500 at some point.

Read More: Dougie Hamilton, Kevan Miller,
Andy Brickley on MFB: ‘Expect further moves to be made’ by Bruins 10.08.14 at 1:52 pm ET
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NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his first weekly appearance of the 2014-15 season Wednesday, hours before the Bruins drop the puck against the Flyers in the opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go the MFB audio on demand page.

Prognosticators think highly of the Bruins heading into the campaign, and Brickley explained there’s a good reason for that.

“I don’t know if they’ve gotten better in any one particular area other than a little bit more experience,” Brickley said. “I think they have the strengths that most teams that want to be an elite team have. You try to build teams from the goal line on out. So they have a goaltender that won the Vezina in the last year, obviously, Tuukka [Rask] is tremendously talented and calm and has that demeanor that everybody likes to play in front of.

“They have a real good defensive corps led by Zdeno Chara. They play a defense-first system. They play a backchecking formula that really, really pays off, which is one of the main reasons that they play four lines. The demand by Claude Julien and his coaching staff to have that back pressure to help out the team defense part of the game is almost unmatched across the league. And it really stands out when you break down tape just how committed the Bruins forwards are to get back and play defense and pressure the puck and try to turn defense into offense with turnovers and control the middle of the ice — that’s that straight-down-the-middle phrase that I use.

“And then try to have their offense be a balanced scoring attack along with quality special teams. They were the third-best power play in the league last year, that has a lot to do with the infusion of young talent that they got — like a Dougie Hamilton, like a Torey Krug, they both play power play on different units. Reilly Smith comes in in that deal for [Tyler] Seguin, he gives you a different element, a little bit more speed, a little bit more skill up front. It allows Chara to play the front of the net — whether you thought that was going to be a successful and productive experiment or not, it has paid off for the Bruins.

“So, that’s the formula for success. That’s why the Jeremy Roenicks and the Barry Melroses feel that the Bruins, relative to every other team in the Eastern Conference, that they’re right there at the top.”

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Read More: Andy Brickley, Claude Julien, Johnny Boychuk, Kevan Miller
Looking at Bruins’ candidates to replace Johnny Boychuk 10.06.14 at 12:18 pm ET
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Kevan Miller may be the eventual replacement for Johnny Boychuk. (Getty Images)

Kevan Miller may be the eventual replacement for Johnny Boychuk. (Getty Images)

The trade of Johnny Boychuk left a tough hole to fill on the right side of the Bruins’ second defensive pairing. Not only was Boychuk a dependable player alongside Zdeno Chara on the top pairing for years, but his work in anchoring the second pairing without Chara in the postseason is what allowed the B’s to team Chara and Dennis Seidenberg with success in the 2011 and 2013 postseasons.

Prior to Saturday’s trade, Boychuk had been skating with Seidenberg on the second pairing. That leaves Seidenberg, who is still shaking the rust off after not playing since last December, without a partner. Assuming that the B’s opt to keep Dougie Hamilton alongside Chara on their top pairing and Torey Krug remains on the third pairing, here are the internal candidates to replace Boychuk:

MATT BARTKOWSKI

Bartkowski is a terrific skater who makes the game exciting for both the right and wrong reasons. He was given a top-4 spot (and then had it taken away, and then had it given back, and then had it taken away, etc.) last season when Seidenberg went down, but that doesn’t mean he’s a shoo-in to return to the second pairing.

Playing Bartkowski on the second pairing would mean that Seidenberg, a left shot who plays the right side when teamed with Chara, would need to move to the right-side to accomodate the left-shooting Bartkowski. Seidenberg and Bartkowski were paired together at points prior to Seidenberg’s injury and again on Saturday night and have not looked good together. By my count, the two played were paired together for eight games last season, with Bartkowski posting an even rating in four of the games, a minus-1 in three of them and a plus-1 in one to combine for a minus-2.

It’s been a weird tenure for Bartkowski in Boston thus far. After being stolen from the Panthers in the hilarious trade that also sent Seidenberg to Boston for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a second-round pick, Bartkowski was the final cut on the Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 team, spent three years in Providence, was(n’t) traded to the Flames for Jarome Iginla, started last season as the seventh defenseman and eventually was Seidenberg’s replacement.

He was sick to begin last postseason and was a scapegoat of sorts as the Bruins were upset by the Canadiens in the second round, though the Bruins taking him in and out of the lineup in that series in favor of Andrej Meszaros probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do for his confidence.

ADAM MCQUAID

McQuaid is a solid third-pairing blueliner who is both responsible in his own and end extremely mean wherever he is on the ice. Yet to assume he can be a top-4 defenseman for a full season and postseason would be irresponsible on the part of the Bruins.

Last season was the most frustrating season of what’€™s been a frustrating NHL career for McQuaid. Since taking Mark Stuart‘€™s job during the 2010-11 season, McQuaid has dealt with injury after injury, with last year being doomed by a quad injury that limited him to just 30 games. When it became clear that he wouldn’€™t be able to return at any point of the postseason, McQuaid got surgery on an ankle that had been bugging him as well.

So, like Seidenberg, McQuaid is trying to regain his form after a long time out of game action (his last regular season game was Jan. 19).

If the Bruins attempt to trade for a top-six forward, McQuaid could still be a candidate to be moved. His $1.56 million cap hit would allow the B’€™s, who figure to have $3.1 million in cap space going into the season, to add a player who makes decent money provided they also move other assets such as draft picks (they have their first-round pick and have four second-rounders in the next two drafts) or prospects. The Bruins’€™ depth on D ‘€” Zach Trotman is in the AHL because of it ‘€” would still make them able to overcome another blueliner, albeit one outside their top-4, being moved.

KEVAN MILLER

If all goes well, this is the guy who eventually replaces Boychuk. Miller is a right shot and the strongest player on the Bruins under 6-foot-9. His skill set is the closest to Boychuk’s of any of the players in this group, but he has a long way to go.

Though he got some minutes with Chara and an opportunity to defend a 6-on-5 against the Penguins, the Bruins generally sheltered Miller as a rookie. As a third-pairing player, the Bruins were careful with his matchups (his -.901 CorsiRel quality of competion was the second-lowest on the team; only his partner in Krug player easier minutes). Krug was also the only player with a higher offensive zone start percentage than Miller.

Claude Julien did not shelter Boychuk last season. The B’s put him out against whatever was leftover for opponents after Chara and Patrice Bergeron‘s line discarded the team’s first line. Boychuk had a .385 CorsiRel quality of competition; only Chara (1.5) and Hamilton (.386) played tougher minutes.

This isn’t to suggest that Miller can’t handle an uptick in competition now or won’t be able to later in the season. It just means that if the Bruins are going to give him the opportunity to replace Boychuk, they can’t hide him like they did last season.

————–

The Bruins mix and match with their pairings throughout the season, and the guess is that they’€™ll probably do that again as they audition Boychuk’€™s replacements. With three legitimate candidates, don’€™t assume that whoever’€™s teamed with Seidenberg Wednesday night will be there all season. The money here is on Miller to be the last man standing.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski
No practice for Bruins; Adam McQuaid has ankle surgery 05.04.14 at 1:40 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid, who has been out since Jan. 19 with a quad strain, is officially done for the season after getting arthoscopic surgery on his right ankle. McQuaid played 30 games this season, the last of which was Jan. 19 in Chicago before missing the rest of the season with a quad strain.

McQuaid was last seen skating on April 19. According to an industry source, the decision was made for McQuaid to have surgery on the ankle — an issue that he’d already been dealing with — once it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to play this season due to the quad injury. At that point, it made sense to take care of the ankle immediately.

It was obviously a very trying year for McQuaid, who initially hurt himself on Nov. 9 against the Maple Leafs and made multiple comeback attempts that didn’t take. He returned for three games in November before re-aggravating his quad injury and then came back in December to play 11 games before getting injured again. The team shut him down for over a month in March, but he never returned to game action.

“Every time I’ve come back, I’ve hoped that that was going to be the end of it, but it’s hockey and things happens,” McQuaid said in February. “So it goes in life.”

It could be tougher for McQuaid going forward, as Kevan Miller may have claimed the third-pairing right spot — McQuaid’s usual role — for good. McQuaid has one more year on his current contract after this season with a $1.56 million cap hit, while Miller is signed up for the next two seasons at $800,000 a year.

———

McQuaid’s teammates stayed off the ice for the most part Sunday as they have a two-day break between Saturday’s Game 2 victory in Boston and Tuesday’s Game 3 in Montreal.

On the ice for the Bruins Sunday morning were Dennis Seidenberg, Corey Potter, Justin Florek and Matt Bartkowski. Florek and Bartkowski were both healthy scratches in Game 2 against the Canadiens.

Potter’s presence on the ice is a good sign, as he suffered a shoulder injury between Games 4 and 5 of the first round against the Red Wings.

As for Chris Kelly, who has yet to skate since suffering a back injury late in the season, Claude Julien gave minimal update on Boston’s third-line left wing. Julien would only say that each day has been better for Kelly.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

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