BRIGHTON, MA – To listen to Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery, it sounds as if there are going to be some question marks for the Game 1 lineup tonight against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.
Both Patrice Bergeron and Linus Ullmark were not on the ice for Monday’s optional morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena and Montgomery couldn’t say if either will definitely be in the lineup for the first game of the playoffs as a stomach bug continues to rip through the hockey team.
“Not only Bergeron, but a couple of guys have been under the weather, so I don’t have a definitive lineup for tonight,” said Montgomery. “A little bit [disconcerting]. I’d love to be able to come in here and tell you our exact lines, our D-pairings and who is starting in net. But the luxury we have is our phenomenal depth, and whoever is healthy enough to end up going tonight we know we have a good opportunity for success.
“We know it’s going to be a great test for us no matter who is in the lineup because we know how good the Florida Panthers are.”
It’s unclear how much is illness and how much could be an upper body injury suffered after Bergeron played in the regular season finale against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre last week. Bergeron was forced to leave that game after the first period with an upper body injury that the B’s claimed was precautionary, but No. 37 hasn’t been seen on the ice since it happened.
Ullmark similarly tweaked something in last week’s final regular season home game against the Washington Capitals but has been at practice while Jeremy Swayman has been dealing with the illness in recent days. The Boston Bruins actually called up Brandon Bussi from Providence as an emergency third goaltender for Monday night’s game and he was on the practice ice at Warrior ahead of Boston’s playoff opener.
“It’s been like 10 days or two weeks that it’s been going around. It goes through one guy and then unfortunately somebody else gets it,” said Montgomery. “We’ve had guys like [Jakub] Lauko where he lost eight pounds when he had it.”
Two things we know definitively: Derek Forbort is going to be in for Game 1 and Nick Foligno is a strong possibility to be in Monday night’s lineup as well.
This isn’t the first time that the Boston Bruins have dealt with injuries this season and they have been able to forcefully push through any kind of diversity thanks to their lineup depth. Montgomery expects that to be the case on Monday night even as he has nothing set in stone for a lineup against a Panthers team that’s been fighting for their playoff lives since the NHL All-Star break.
As Montgomery alluded to, the good news is that the Bruins have the luxury or sliding Pavel Zacha into the top center spot if Bergeron can’t play, and they have enough forward depth that a good player like Trent Frederic might be in danger of sitting out if everybody is healthy later on in the postseason.
“Because of Bergeron and because of the culture that’s been here because of him, I don’t worry about it,” said Montgomery, of even mental challenge facing a team possibly missing their captain to start the playoffs. “We went into Carolina with Bergeron, without [Brad] Marchand and without [Hampus] Lindholm, and [David] Pastrnak, [Charlie] McAvoy and [David] Krejci took over. We are blessed in our locker room.”
The Bruins can absolutely withstand missing a forward or two, though missing your 37-year-old captain and top line center is a bigger absence than just about anybody else in a Boston Bruins uniform. And whatever circumstances are causing as a legendarily tough hockey player to miss a playoff game raises some alarm bells and whistles as well.