With a win Sunday over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Florida Panthers became the third team in as many days to lead the jam-packed Atlantic Division.
That list does not include the Boston Bruins, who failed for a third time Sunday to jump atop the Atlantic standings.
A mere two points separate first place from fifth in the NHL’s most competitive division — which remains a wide-open race as we enter the final week of 2015 — and the Bruins have dropped from second, to third, to fourth during their current three-game losing streak.
Boston also has lost the services of two key members during that skid, with defenseman/power-play staple Torey Krug suffering an undisclosed injury Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres and co-leading scorer David Krejci leaving with an upper body injury during Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Neither had missed a game this season before going down.
?You?ve got some injuries, and obviously, those two guys are key players,” head coach Claude Julien said Sunday in a postgame interview with NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley.” And that?s not to mention the other guys right now that have been on (injured reserve) for a while. Those are challenges you have throughout the year, and you?ve got to face those things.
“And as I always say, it gives somebody an opportunity to get better or to grow or to step up and help our team out. So, that?s what we?re trying to do and trying to stay as positive as we can.”
The severity of both Krug’s and Krejci’s injuries remained unclear as of Sunday night, but losing either for any substantial period of time would be a major blow to the Bruins. Krejci, in particular, has been the team’s most consistent offensive contributor this season, tallying at least one point in 25 of Boston’s 35 games.
The Bruins also are thin on centermen, especially with Joonas Kemppainen still out with an upper body injury of his own.
?(Krejci) is a big piece, that?s for sure,” Bruins winger Matt Beleskey, who assisted on Krejci’s second-period goal Sunday, told reporters, as aired on “Bruins Overtime LIVE.” “So when he goes down, I thought (Ryan Spooner) did a great job stepping up and playing some more minutes. But that?s a big loss for us.”
If Krejci is not healthy enough to play Tuesday, when the Bruins host the Senators in the second half of a home-and-home, it will be interesting to see how the Bruins proceed with winger David Pastrnak, whom general manager Don Sweeney said would be made available for the World Junior Championships barring an injury to a Boston forward. Pastrnak has played two games in the American Hockey League since returning from a fractured foot but has not seen action at the NHL level since Oct. 31.
Boston also could add a center via conventional AHL call-up, with Austin Czarnik (nine goals, 10 assists in 24 games with Providence) making a strong case for promotion.
Either way, given how their division currently stacks up, the Bruins will need to right the ship in a hurry.
Thumbnail photo via Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports Images