BRIGHTON, Mass – The book on Patrice Bergeron’s toughness and a high tolerance for pain has many chapters, and another one was written last weekend as he essentially played back-to-back games with a fractured right foot.
The Bruins center was hit in the foot with a clearing attempt in the first period of the loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday. He played the rest of the game and the loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday before getting a full diagnosis. An X-ray in Toronto Saturday didn’t reveal any fracture, so Bergeron and the B’s assumed it was a bone bruise or a bad contusion. A CT scan of his right foot on Monday revealed a fractured right foot, and No. 37 will miss at least two weeks, and possibly more, as the Bruins prepare for the final six weeks of the regular season.
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Riley Nash is expected to take Bergeron’s spot in the lineup between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as he did at the morning skate on Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena. Newly acquired Tommy Wingels will be added to the lineup for tonight’s home date against the Carolina Hurricanes.
For a player in Bergeron that was in the middle of his best NHL season and vying for Hart Trophy consideration, the injury is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.
"It's very disappointing, to say the least,” admitted Bergeron as he maneuvered the Bruins dressing room with a pair of crutches. “It was tough news to hear [on Monday] night. In the first period [in Toronto] on a clearing attempt [the puck] hit my ankle and I wasn't expecting it.
“You never want to step away from it. You always want to feel like you’re a part of it and you’re contributing. It’s going to be tough tonight to be on the sidelines and to not be out there with the guys. I have two weeks where there’s not much I can do. Patience is the key word and heal quickly with lots of prayers. So that’s what is going on with me.”
As first reported on NBCSportsBoston.com, Bergeron walked out of the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night wearing a protective boot, and that was the first sign that something might not be quite right with the B’s franchise center. Still, he gutted through Sunday while clearing moving around gingerly on the right foot. Bergeron said it was a bad sign that the pain continued to remain intense even after a couple of days.
“Yesterday it was still pretty sore. Usually, things like that go away after a little bit, and it was there with me [on Sunday] the entire time. I spoke to the doctors and we decided to take another image, and it revealed that it was fractured,” said Bergeron. “We’re going to reassess in two weeks and see what comes out of it. I want to be back out there as soon as possible.
“I want to make sure I’m back and fully healthy. Our goal is to get into the playoffs and have a long run. Obviously [Don Sweeney] has made that statement as well with the acquisitions he’s made. It’s my goal as well. Time will tell. I want to make sure I’m healthy and ready to go, and able to help my team. But at the same time, I want to get back out there as quickly as possible.”
This will be nothing new for the Bruins after they endured a wave of injuries at the beginning of the season, including Bergeron for the first couple of games. They know the drill when it comes to grinding through the adversity. It won’t be easy without their best player, but they will need to find a way in the final 22 games of the season.
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“He was in the discussion for the MVP of the league, so obviously [the absence] is going to hurt. But we were through this earlier in the year where we needed different guys to step up,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “We don’t expect one person to replace [Bergeron]. It will be done by committee, and that includes his linemates in [Marchand] and [Pastrnak]. They’ll need to understand they need to tighten up a little bit.
“They’ll need to do their part in the 200-foot game. On the power play [David] Backes will probably play the bumper, so it’s not falling all on Riley Nash. And then we’ll go from there. [Tommy] Wingels has [penalty] killed, so we add him to the mix and Rick Nash has killed as well. We’ll make it up with those two players for the most part. That’s how we plan on doing it.”
It won’t be easy, of course, and it’s too bad that Bergeron’s brilliant season will be interrupted by an injury. Still, both Bergeron and the B’s are fortunate this type of thing happened with six weeks to go in the regular season rather than two weeks to go. The expectation is that a fully healthy No. 37 will be ready to go well ahead of the postseason after a little late-season R&R that might not turn out to be the worst thing in the world for him.