|Now healthy, Milan Lucic has to step up this postseason with Nathan Horton out||04.11.12 at 2:13 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It became official Wednesday that David Krejci and Milan Lucic will not play with Nathan Horton this postseason, but could the Bruins’ first (depending on who you ask) line be even better than it was a season ago?
It’s a tough act to follow, to be certain. Krejci led all postseason players with 12 goals and 23 points, while Horton’s eight goals tied for third on the team.
The line will obviously be different in that Rich Peverley will be skating in Horton’s place as he did in Games 3-7 of the Cup finals, but the biggest difference should be Lucic.
After leading the team with 30 goals in the regular season last year, Lucic struggled through a sinus infection and, later, a broken toe. He finished the playoffs with 12 points (five goals, seven assists), which tied for eighth on the team. The Bruins won the Cup, and he assisted two of Horton’s overtime goals against the Canadiens (including the series-clinching Game 7 tally), but Lucic didn’t look right. People wondered whether he was playing through pain.
As it turned out, he was. He’d had the sinus infection throughout the postseason, and he had his big toe shattered by a Tyler Seguin slap shot in practice between Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.
Now, Lucic is healthy, and he’s ready to not only produce more offensively, but help in the other areas where Horton will be missed. When Horton is on that line, it’s a trio that features two big power forwards, making it a very physical and tough group to deal with. Peverley adds speed, but the extra bruising play will have to be provided by Lucic.
“I think I definitely have to play physical no matter what, but [Horton] definitely makes it easier, I’m not going to lie, because he is a big body and he’s got such great speed and we all know about his scoring touch,” Lucic said. “For myself, I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well the last 10 games, and using my body well all season long and I’ve been skating well. Being physical is a big part of my game, and I have to bring that in the playoffs.”
There’s no positive way of spinning of the loss of Horton, but Lucic can recognize that the situation heading into the postseason will be easier than it was the last time the B’s last Horton. Krejci had centered Lucic and Horton for the vast majority of the season, and the trio had built up a pretty strong rapport.
One Aaron Rome hit later, Krejci and Lucic found themselves with a new linemate while still four victories away from the Stanley Cup. There was no time for adjustment then, but they now have experience with Peverley based on the Cup finals and recent weeks.
“Yeah it does, definitely,” Lucic said when asked whether the familiarity with Peverley makes it easier this time around. “You go from playing a whole year with the exact same two guys, and then the last four games, Peverley jumps in the mix. This time, we’ve definitely played a lot more games together, and in these last couple of days of practice have gotten the feel of each other a lot more having practiced with each other. We’re excited for this series to get going, and we’re excited to get back into playoff mode. We want to be a big part of our team moving forward and having success.”
Peverley returned from a knee injury on March 25 and had four points (two goals, two assists), over the final eight games of the regular season. He brings a different skill set with a speedier game, but he showed he was capable of performing in the playoffs last season by matching Lucic’s 12 points despite playing most of the playoffs on the third line.
Ultimately, the Bruins are better with Nathan Horton without him, but the Krejci line should still be poised for success without him. Peverley had four points in five games in place of Horton last June, and Krejci has been known to elevate his game in the playoffs. At the end of the day, though, don’t be surprised if Lucic ends up being the real difference on that line this year. He wasn’t healthy enough to be a consistent force in the playoffs like Horton was a season ago, but there are plenty of reasons to believe he could be this time around.
WILMINGTON — No one on the Bruins feels worse than David Krejci about Wednesday’s news that Nathan Horton will be out for the entire playoffs with the lingering effects of his second concussion in 12 months.
It was Krejci who was just beginning to get into a groove on the second line with Horton again when he had a setback in February, a setback that ended Wednesday with the news that Horton needed more time to fully heal.
“I was hoping he was going to be back for first or second round, but now we know he won’t,” Krejci said. “It kind of sucks but that’s how it goes sometimes. This is still his life and he’s got to take care of his own body. He shouldn’t be pushing it. If he doesn’t feel well, there’s nothing he can do.”
Krejci not only played on the same line with Horton, he can relate fully with what Horton is going through.
“I had a concussion two times so I know how it is,” Krejci said. “This is not an easy situation. Hopefully, he’s going to do well over the next couple months and he’s going to be ready for next season.”
Now, with Rich Peverley replacing Horton on the second line, Krejci and Milan Lucic have had to adjust. It’s an adjustment the Bruins made masterfully last year in the Stanley Cup finals as Peverley added a speed element that wasn’t there with Horton.
“One thing is you can’t replace Horty,” Krejci said. He’s just a great player and I love playing with him but the other side is we played without him for  games so we know how to win games without him. We still have a good team. We have lots of depth. Hopefully we can do it.
“I think we started putting the puck in the net more often, especially the last few games of the season. So, I feel pretty good. This is kind of new season. Everybody starts from the beginning. We’re just going to have to go out there and do it again.”
Brad Marchand is one of those players who picked up the scoring slack for Horton in the finals, scoring twice in Game 7 in Vancouver.
“We’re going to try,” Marchand said. “We want to play for him like we did last year in the finals. It’s obviously tough with him not being here so we want to definitely want to use that to an advantage and play for him.
“It’s big for him and the team. We’re not going to always be wondering and hoping if he’s going to come back and save us. The fact that we know now that we have to do it within the room and we can’t rely on him to come back and help us out. Different guys are going to have to realize they’re going to have to step up. For him, it relieves the pressure that he has to rush back and continue to progress every single day to try and rush back to playoffs. Now, he can take his time and worry about getting better mentally and hopefully come back for next year.”
|Marc Savard: ‘I feel so bad’ for Nathan Horton||at 1:16 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — When the Bruins traded for Nathan Horton in the 2010 offseason, the hope was that he could thrive in the Boston offense thanks to the skills of Marc Savard. Scorers such as Phil Kessel had excelled when skating on Savard’s line, so fans and media alike wondered if Savard could make Horton a 40-goal scorer.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, Savard and Horton haven’t shared many goals, or even games together. What they do have in common is that they’ve seen the bad side of playing in the NHL: concussions and post-concussion syndrome.
On the day that the Bruins announced Horton would miss the postseason with a concussion, Savard took to twitter to express his thoughts on the news, which hit close to him given his history. Savard wrote the following:
“I feel so bad for my boy Horty. Although I believe both parties are making the right decision. He’s too young.”
Savard, who is in the second year of a seven-year deal with the Bruins, missed the entire season with post-concussion syndrome and it is still unknown whether he will ever play again. Horton’s concussion is his second in less than seven months.
|Nathan Horton done for the season||at 10:43 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins announced Wednesday that right wing Nathan Horton will miss the 2012 postseason. The news comes as no major shock, as Horton has been out since late January with his latest concussion.
Horton suffered a concussion on Jan. 22 against the Flyers on a hit from Tom Sestito, his second concussion in less than seven months. He had previously been knocked out of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals after a hit from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome left him concussed in Game 3.
In 46 games this season, Horton had 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points. He had tried to resume skating in early February, but suffered a setback before eventually returning to the ice last week. Despite the fact that he was skating, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Sunday that Horton was a “long shot” to return during the postseason given the two weeks he would need to return after eventually being medically cleared.
|Peter Chiarelli says Nathan Horton ‘a longshot’ to return this season, gives updates on Tuukka Rask, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid||04.08.12 at 1:01 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said on a conference call Sunday that while he won’t rule Nathan Horton out for the season, the veteran winger is a “longshot” to play again this season after suffering his most recent concussion in January.
Horton began skating last week but has not yet been cleared for contact. Chiarelli noted that Horton is “quite far off right now” as he still has occasional post-concussion syndrome issues. Even if Horton were to be cleared for contact, Chiarelli said the 26-year-old would still need “a couple of weeks” before he would be ready to play in games.
“Well, certainly if he were to be cleared at some point, he’d need at least a couple weeks to get back so he’s quite far off right now,” Chiarelli said. “I know he’s skating, [but] he’s had little bouts here and there with post-concussion symptoms so it’s a long shot. I’m not going to rule him out yet but it’s a longshot.”
In 46 games this season, Horton has 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points and an even rating.
On the status of the team’s other injured players, Chiarelli said defensemen Johnny Boychuk (bruised knee) and Adam McQuaid (swollen eye) are both “day-to-day,” while he considers goaltender Tuukka Rask “a little bit more than day-to-day” as the Finnish netminder looks to return from an abdomen strain/groin strain. If Rask is unable to play, Anton Khudobin will be Tim Thomas‘ backup when the playoffs begin against the Capitals.
|Claude Julien: Nathan Horton ‘not close’ to returning, but Tuukka Rask is progressing||04.04.12 at 1:34 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins saw both Nathan Horton and Tuukka Rask take the ice prior to Wednesday’s practice. For Rask, it means things are continuing to progress. For Horton, it’s a small step in the right direction.
Rask has been skating since Monday, as he aims to make a return from his abdomen strain/groin strain by the playoffs. The Bruins have Anton Khudobin up with the team now, and it’s likely that he’ll start Thursday’s game against the Senators. That should give Khudobin a little more NHL experience (he’s played six games for the Wild) before the playoffs start if he’s needed as Tim Thomas‘ backup, but in a perfect world the Bruins would have Rask back.
“Tuukka’s been skating for a few days, and he’s coming around,” coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s practice. “We hope to have him with us soon, at least in practice.
“With Nathan, it’s just going out there — nothing more than just skating and trying to get a feel of how things are. Nothing more than that. He’s not close to joining us as we speak. Still keeping our fingers crossed that it’s going in the right direction.”
Horton has not played since Jan. 22, when his second concussion in less than seven months forced him out of the lineup. His attempt at a comeback has been shaky this season, as he suffered a setback after trying to skate in February.
The Bruins don’t know whether they’ll get Horton back at any point in the playoffs, as the postseason can last up to two months. He’s a longshot to return soon, but Julien says Horton is in good spirits.
“He’s in a good spot emotionally,” Julien said of Horton. “I haven’t talked [to him] about anything related to hockey and him coming back. The last thing he needs is for his coach to start asking those kind of questions. That’s not my job and it’s certainly not something that would be a positive thing to do.
“I leave him be. Everything I do with him is small talk — how are you doing today — and he’s looking good color-wise. He seems to have good color, and we see he’s happy. Those kind of things are encouraging.”
|Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask skate prior to Bruins practice||at 11:14 am ET|
WILMINGTON — In an encouraging sign, Bruins forward Nathan Horton and goaltender Tuukka Rask skated for 40 minutes with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides prior to Wednesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. Neither players was not on the ice as the team began their practice Wednesday.
Horton has been out since Jan. 22, when he suffered his second concussion in seven months. He tried skating in February, but had a setback and was shut back down. Wednesday marks the first time he has skated since then.
Whether Horton returns to the Bruins at any point in the postseason remains unclear. In 46 games this season, he has 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points.
Rask suffered an abdomen strain/groin strain on March 3. He said recently that he hopes to return in time for the postseason.
Johnny Boychuk, who left Tuesday night’s game in the third period, did not practice, while Jordan Caron returned to the ice after staying away from the team Tuesday with flu-like symptoms.