Even if the Bruins prevail on Monday and force a Game 7 back in Vancouver on Wednesday, the Boston forward won’t be close to ready to return from the severe concussion he suffered from a late hit by Aaron Rome in Game 3.
But that doesn’t mean Horton hasn’t remained a part of Boston’s drive for the Cup. He returned to the Garden after Game 4 to pass on the vintage team jacket the Bruins have been presenting to the top performer in each of their wins since Andrew Ference bought it on eBay back in March. And Horton has continued to make appearances in the locker room to inspire his teammates, including a visit Monday morning prior to Game 6.
“We’ve seen him. He’s been around the locker room,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. “He’s looking pretty good. I love that guy, so I’m happy to see him looking OK.”
Horton is doing better but is still suffering symptoms from the concussion, and Bruins coach Claude Julien made it clear there should be no expectation of a dramatic return for the injured star forward.
“He’s been around, but I think we’re clear when that happened what his update was, so that’s not going to change,” Julien said. “So if people are looking for miracles, if he’s there, it will be pretty special. But right now, he’s still dealing with those concussion issues as we speak. He popped in quickly [Monday] morning just to say ‘hi.’ I have the impression that he’s going to be coming to the game [Monday night] as long as he feels good, and that can vary as the day goes on. But I think right now his plan is to hopefully be here [for the game].”
The first two times the Bruins faced elimination, it was Horton who delivered the goal to carry them to the next round. He scored the game-winner in overtime in Game 7 against Montreal and the only goal late in the third period in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the conference final. Now someone else will have to provide the dramatic goal to get Boston to another Game 7 and potentially their first Cup since 1972.
“It just goes to show that everyone’s going to have to do a little bit more,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “Obviously, with a guy like Horty who stepped up and scored big goals at key times, not just in Game 7’s like you said, you look back at Game 5 against Montreal, he gets the game-winner and in Game 5 against Tampa he was able to get that goal and get us into that game also. So he’s scored some big goals at some key times and that just goes to show that everyone’s going to have to do a bit more and everyone’s going to have to step up here and fill in for the void.”
The void on the top line has been filled by a variety of players, with Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin all seeing time at right wing alongside David Krejci and Lucic. Peverley scored two big goals in the Game 4 victory, but it hasn’t been an easy transition for Lucic and Krejci to adjust to a rotating cast of new linemates.
“We’re so used to Nathan being on our right side,” Lucic said. “Then in the same game you have Peverley and Ryder and Seguin on the right side, but you don’t want to make excuses. Everybody has to do their part with whoever we’re out there with. Not much is going to change [in Game 6], so we’re going to have to find a way.”
One thing will change. If the Bruins want to stave off elimination and push this series to seven games, they’ll need someone other than Horton to score the deciding goal.
“It’s tough to replace a guy like that, but other guys are going to have to,” Thornton said. “There’s no excuses. We have to do it. If he’s not here, then someone else has to get it done.”