When GM Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins front office were looking ahead to this season, they were anticipating a strong starting six on defense with veteran depth and promising rookies in reserve. A quarter of the way through the season, the Bruins have yet to play a game with all six of their projected starters: Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, and free agent addition John Moore. Instead, the team has rotated through ten different defensemen due to continuous injury issues. Tonight, they’ll add two more.
In the Bruins’ Wednesday night game against the Colorado Avalanche, they lost captain Chara to an apparent knee injury. He joined McAvoy (concussion), Carlo (upper-body), Miller (hand), and rookie Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) on the shelf. Then today, Moore was unexpectedly absent from morning skate and the team announced that he was day-to-day with a lower-body injury of his own. The loss leaves the Bruins with just one starter – Krug – in the lineup and missing all of their regular right-side defenders. Krug and Matt Grzelcyk are the only active defensemen who played a game for Boston last season.
When the Bruins take on the Dallas Stars tonight – and likely Saturday at the Arizona Coyotes as well – they will roll out a defensive corps that includes three rookies. Jeremy Lauzon has skated in six games with Boston already and the team announced that Jakub Zboril and Connor Clifton will make their NHL debuts tonight. Zboril, 21, is a 2015 first-round pick who has been slow to develop but has been a capable shutdown defender in the AHL. Clifton, 23, was a college free agent out of Quinnipiac University who signed with the Providence Bruins last year and earned an NHL contract with his play. While all three rookies have shown promise, they hardly seem equipped to play the roles expected of them early on in their NHL careers. The current Bruins defensive figuration has just 667 career NHL games to their credit and just 262 not counting Krug. Boston needs some luck and strong outings by Tuukka Rask tonight and Jaroslav Halak tomorrow to survive this unbelievable injury bug.