BRIGHTON, MA – Could Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron not wind up playing in Game 1 against the Florida Panthers Monday night at T.D. Garden?
Patrice Bergeron – who has been nursing nagging upper and lower-body injuries – was not on the ice again Sunday morning when his team held an optional practice at Warrior Ice Arena. Following the skate, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney maintained the ‘precautionary’ mantra that head coach Jim Montgomery has been preaching to the media regarding Bergeron’s health and recent absences. However, he acknowledged that there’s a possibility that Bergeron won’t be able to suit up when the Bruins and Panthers kick off the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday night (7:30 p.m., NESN, ESPN, Sportsnet).
“Taking an extra day again today, obviously, but that’s to be decided tomorrow if he feels well enough, he’ll play,” Sweeney replied when asked what the status of his 37-year-old captain is. “If not, we’ve done a really good job down the stretch of trying to – whether it’s Nosek who missed a game, he was under the weather, ‘Sway’ [Jeremy Swayman] missed today, under the weather – so we’re just trying to monitor the situation and make sure we balance it out.”
As Sweeney pointed out, it’s not like missing these practices will affect a seasoned veteran like Bergeron in a game. He also confirmed that Bergeron, like Swayman, is battling an illness on top of the nagging injuries that a 37-year-old can amass through an 82-game schedule.
“Patrice doesn’t need extra days of practice,” Sweeney quipped. “So if he feels better, he’ll play.”
One reason the 2022-23 Boston Bruins were able to break the all-time record for wins and points in an NHL regular season was their depth. Forward Pavel Zacha, a natural center, quickly emerged as a viable option in the middle when David Krejci was out with injuries, and Sweeney has the utmost confidence he can do that again if Bergeron can’t play in Game 1.
“A lot,” Sweeney replied when asked how much confidence he has in Zacha stepping up in a potential Bergeron absence again. “You know, with David Krejci coming back with his line, Pavel’s assumed a lot of those responsibilities. He’s played really well – but obviously, faceoffs (with Bergeron out) that comes up where Patrice is one of the best in the game, and it’s an area where everybody has to dig in. We’ve had players out and played different games with Patrice not being in, but that’s to be decided [Monday]. It’s good for him to get those reps with Brad [Marchand] and Jake [DeBrusk], and even Charlie [Coyle] has stepped in there. But that’s something we’re not overly concerned with right now.”
As Sweeney mentioned, veteran Bruins winger Brad Marchand did practice on Sunday and skated on a line with Zacha and DeBrusk.
If Bergeron can’t go in Game 1, here’s how the forward lines would likely look to start the game:
Brad Marchand-Pavel Zacha-Jake DeBrusk
Tyler Bertuzzi-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall-Charlie Coyle-Trent Frederic
Nick Foligno-Tomas Nosek-Garnet Hathaway