NHL

Key injuries hang over Game 6

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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BOSTON

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said he’s “100 percent.” Patrice Bergeron’s coach said he’s “confident” his top center in the series will be in the Boston Bruins lineup. The questions about Marian Hossa and Nathan Horton have subsided, even though both are likely still hurting.

Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final could come down to which team is healthier Monday night at TD Garden, although — as is often the case this time of year — it’s difficult to judge at the moment.

Toews missed the entire third period as Chicago won Game 5 on Saturday, 3-1, to pull within a game of the franchise’s second Cup in four years. Unlike Bergeron, Toews did take part in the skate with his teammates Monday morning.

“That was the best morning skate I’ve had all series,” Toews said. “I feel great. I’m excited. There are no questions about where I am physically.”

Bergeron, the Bruins' best two-way forward and top goal-scorer of the finals (four goals), was taken to the hospital for observation during Game 5. He wasn’t made available to reporters before Game 6, but Bruins coach Claude Julien said Bergeron will dress for warm-ups.

“I'm feeling confident that he'll play,” Julien added.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Toews has an upper-body injury and Toews declined to provide any more detail on Monday. Julien has been even more opaque.

“Body injury,” Julien told reporters previously.

The only thing worse might be an “out-of-body injury.” Canada’s Sportsnet reported that Bergeron was monitored for a possible spleen injury.

“He’s been the glue for this hockey team for a lot of years,” Bruins center Chris Kelly said of Bergeron. “He’s one of our best players. So, we’ll see what happens and if he doesn’t play then it’s going to be a full team effort to fill his skates."

Jay Pandolfo and Jordan Caron — neither of whom has played a game this postseason — are the likely candidates to replace Bergeron if he can’t go. Julien said both players will take warm-ups before Game 6.

“If Bergeron can't go, then I have got some decisions to make,” Julien said. “Again, there's a little bit more in the thought process than just picking a guy. I need to make decisions based on what the needs will be for tonight.”

Toews lasted four shifts after a brutal — but legal — check by Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the second period of Game 5. Boychuk wasn’t penalized, and the league didn’t discipline him further for the collision.

“It was a couple hits that I took that I guess the coaches didn’t think I was ready to play in the third period,” Toews said. “Obviously, you want to bounce back. It’s a physical game. For me there were no worries there. Coaches were confident that we could win the game while making sure I wasn’t risking anything.”

Earlier in the series, the Blackhawks had to play minus Hossa. (Hossa again didn’t take the pre-game skate, but is expected to be in the lineup.) He was a surprise scratch before Game 3, possibly dealing with some sort of neck issue.

Hossa has played in each game since, though he only has two assists and no goals in the finals — not what you’d expect from Chicago's third-leading scorer from the regular season.

The Bruins were minus Horton — reportedly because of a separated shoulder — after he was forced out in the first overtime of the Hawks’ 4-3, three-OT Game 1 victory. He returned for Game 2.

Other players are likely suffering from injuries we won’t know about — just like exactly what’s wrong with Toews, Bergeron, Hossa and Horton — until after the finals are complete.

“Well, I think you’ve got to (play through the pain),” Horton said. “You don’t want to hurt your teammates. I think you have to be the judge yourself if you can help or you can’t help. You have to be true to yourself and do what you can.”

Impact players are easy to spot, at least of late, for the 'Hawks.

Patrick Kane, who went without a goal in the first three games, scored once in Game 4 and twice in Game 5. Patrick Sharp, like with the 2010 Blackhawks squad that won the Cup, has been a constant threat, and would have had one more in Game 5 had it not been for an acrobatic save by Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

For Boston, this might be a good time for forwards Brad Marchand and David Krejci — neither of whom have a goal in the finals — to produce regardless of Bergeron’s status. The Bruins are already thin at center since Gregory Campbell (broken leg) went down earlier in the playoffs. Also, former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara has been on the ice for eight of the Hawks’ last nine goals.

“Everyone has to pull their weight and play at their best,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “These are the games that you want to be a part of and be a big part of. You got to look forward to the challenge, embrace it, and have a lot of fun with it.”

There’s one thing that makes even the most injured player feel a lot better and, no, it doesn’t come from a needle: lifting that 35-pound Stanley Cup.
 

Tagged: Bruins, Blackhawks, Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Brad Marchand

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