BOSTON — The Bruins didn’t have an extra defenseman at Tuesday’s morning skate because of Kevan Miller’s absence.
Miller suffered an upper-body injury after fighting Buffalo Sabres forwardÂ Nicolas Deslauriers on Saturday night, and the team announced Monday that the veteran D-man is out indefinitely.
Matt Bartkowski is expected to fill in for Miller on the third pairing when the Bruins take on the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on Tuesday night. Bartkowski skated in that spot during morning drills alongside Adam McQuaid.
“It’s an unfortunate event that you never want to see,” Bartkowski said of Miller’s injury. “But at the same time, we have depth throughout this organization, we’ve seen over the last few years. We’re able to, not necessarily replace, but fill in for guys when needed.”
Bartkowski likely will have a few games to prove he belongs on Boston’s blue line long term and is capable of playing a strong two-way game at even strength and on special teams.
Bartkowski has been a healthy scratch for six of the first seven games. His only appearance was against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, Oct. 13, when he didn’t tally a point and registered only one shot on goal. He was on the ice for both Avalanche goals, including the game-winner with less than a second remaining. Bartkowski was partly to blame for that goal because he was out of position (too high in the defensive zone).
Bartkowski and the rest of Boston’s defensemen will face a tough test against San Jose, which has three forward lines capable of scoring goals against quality opposition.
— Lines and pairings in practice rushes. We should see similar combinations to start Tuesday night’s matchup.
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Seth Griffith
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly-Carl Soderberg-Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Simon Gagne
Extra: Matt Fraser
Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg-Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski-Adam McQuaid
— Seth Griffith skated with David Krejci and Milan Lucic during morning skate and likely will start on the top line against the Sharks.
“I think Seth’s done a pretty good job of stepping in and doing what he does,” Lucic said. “He’s a guy you can see he has great hands and great vision and he’s got a great shot as well. For him, as well, it’s just a matter of time before (shots) start going in. He had some really great chances in Montreal, and on any other night, probably two of those go in for him. … Like I said, you want to do what you can and work hard to create those chances again.”
Bruins head coach Claude Julien wouldn’t confirm that Griffith would be on the top line for the entire game. Julien started Griffith on the first line against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, then moved Gagne to that spot toward the end of the game. We could see that unfold again Tuesday night if the top line struggles to create scoring chances.
At even strength, Krejci has a 51 Corsi-for percentage when he plays with Griffith and a 63.9 percent CF% alongside Simon Gagne. This shows that the Bruins average about 13 percent more shots when Gagne is next to Krejci compared to when Griffith is on this line.
— San Jose is 4-1-1 to start the season with just over 3.17 goals scored per game. However, the team’s strength so far has been its goaltending.
Starting netminder Antti Niemi is 3-0 with a .933 save percentage and a 2.27 GAA. It’s an encouraging start for him after he struggled in the Sharks’ first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings last season in which San Jose blew a 3-0 series lead.
— Joe Thornton is in his 17th NHL season, and it has been eight years since he left the Bruins via trade. Even at age 36, Thornton still is one of the best playmakers in the league. He finished second in assists last season with 65 and has six points (one goal, five assists) in six games this season.
— The Bruins were 2-0-0 against the Sharks in 2013-14. David Krejci scored with less than a second remaining in regulation to give Boston a 1-0 win at home. The B’s won in San Jose by the same score later in the season.