Nathan Horton's Absence Felt Now More Than Ever with Game 7 Showdown Looming for BruinsBOSTON — The Bruins have dearly missed Nathan Horton's physical presence and clutch scoring on the top line since the right winger was sidelined with a concussion in January.

But with a decisive Game 7 showdown with the Capitals looming on Wednesday, Horton's absence is being felt more keenly than ever. Game 7s, after all, are when Horton does his best work.

Horton had never played in an NHL postseason game before coming to Boston in a trade from Florida before last season, but he made up for lost time with eight goals and 17 points in 21 games in the Bruins' run to the Cup last spring. That included a pair of dramatic Game 7 winners, beating Montreal in the opening round with an overtime blast and putting Boston in its first Cup Final since 1990 when he scored the lone goal of a 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay midway through the third period.

Horton suffered his first serious concussion in Game 3 of the Finals on a late hit by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome. Horton was sidelined for the rest of the series but still managed to pick up an assist in Game 7 when he arrived in Vancouver in time to sprinkle some melted Garden ice on the Rogers Arena surface before the game, helping to inspire the Bruins to a 4-0 Cup-clinching victory on their newly christened "home" ice.

The Bruins will need some more Game 7 magic on Wednesday if they want to keep their hopes of defending that Cup alive, but they will have to do it without Horton. He was ruled out for the entire postseason before the series began, as he continues to suffer symptoms from the concussion caused by Philadelphia forward Tom Sestito's hit on Jan. 22.

"We miss Horty, there's no question about that," Bruins center Gregory Campbell said Monday at the Garden. "He has an uncanny ability to score goals, and any time a player like that is out of your lineup, it's tough. I mean, goals are at a premium now in the playoffs, especially in this series."

Campbell knows Horton as well as anyone in the Bruins organization. They broke into the NHL together in the Panthers organization in 2003-04 and have spent their entire NHL careers together. Campbell and Horton came to Boston in the same deal that sent defenseman Dennis Wideman, who is now with Washington, and a first-round pick to Florida.

Campbell has seen Horton's knack for scoring big goals firsthand for many years and would like nothing more than to have him healthy and ready for another dramatic Game 7 clash. But Campbell also knows that the Bruins have overcome other key injuries, and they will have to find a way to do it again Wednesday.

"Any time you have a natural goal-scorer not in your lineup, it hurts us," Campbell said. "We've had other guys step up, as we have all year. But there are guys that come up big a lot, and that's what he does. Scoring goals, I don't want to say it comes easy to him, but it's something that he's extremely good at. In Game 7s, usually they're close games, so we're going to miss him for sure."

Patrice Bergeron, who is playing through an undisclosed injury of his own from Game 5 on Saturday, is the only other current Bruin to have scored the winning goal in a Game 7. He tallied the opening goal, and later added a backbreaking shorthanded score, in Game 7 in Vancouver.

Without Horton, the Bruins will need another big night from Bergeron, or perhaps have a new Game 7 hero emerge to continue the tradition Horton started a year ago.

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