The Bruins simply cannot catch a break on the injury front, especially on the backend, which took another hit Sunday with an injury to Jeremy Lauzon.
Boston’s top-pairing left shot defender opposite Charlie McAvoy since the season began, Lauzon’s NHL Outdoors effort came to an end after just one, 34-second shift thanks to an upper-body injury.
Already without Matt Grzelcyk and Jakub Zboril, Lauzon’s departure left the Bruins with just veteran John Moore and prospect Urho Vaakanainen (making his season debut in the outdoor affair) as the team’s left-side defenders in the blowout win over Philadelphia. (The Bruins were also without the services of veteran defenseman Kevan Miller, who did not travel to Lake Tahoe for the one-off due to the 33-year-old Miller’s surgically-repaired knee dealing with some soreness.)
The good news was that nature of the B’s victory — the Bruins and Flyers were tied at 2-2 through one period but the B’s held a four-goal lead through 40 minutes of action — allowed Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy to manage his shorthanded group a bit better than most nights. That saw Moore, who recorded two assists in the win, finish with 22:39 of ice-time, while the 22-year-old Vaakanainen totaled 23:28 (and a defense-best three shots on goal) in his first NHL game since Nov. 2019.
But the potential bad news is that Cassidy didn’t have much of any update on Lauzon after the loss, and that an extended absence would leave the Bruins without all three of their top three left-handed defensemen when the 2021 season began just over a month ago.
And a Lauzon absence may present this group with its most daunting challenge yet.
In addition to averaging 3:08 of shorthanded time on ice per night (second-most among all Boston skaters), Lauzon has a team-high 75 starts in the defensive zone, and has been on the ice for 120 defensive-zone faceoffs (third-most on the Bruins). Replacing Lauzon, who replaced Zdeno Chara, is replacing some of the hardest minutes the game has to offer.
The Bruins seemingly believe that Miller’s absence will be a short one, however, which would help the B’s in this respect. But if Miller remains out for another game, and if Grzelcyk and Zboril are unable to work their way back into the mix this week, it’s likely that the Bruins will have to move Connor Clifton back to the left side and throw Steven Kampfer into action for his first NHL game action of 2021.
With a Monday off, the Bruins will have to wait and see how that shakes out when they return to the ice on Tuesday in preparation for a Thursday night road tilt on Long Island.