Bruins preparing for life without Kelly

Bruins preparing for life without Kelly
March 14, 2013, 4:45 pm
Share This Post

BOSTON -- For the Bruins, there will be plenty of work to do to make up for the loss of Chris Kelly, who is out of the lineup Thursday night, and could be out for the rest of the regular season and beyond.

Kelly scored 20 goals last season and gave Boston the secondary offense they are always looking for, but the third-line pivot plays vital roles in holding things down defensively and killing penalties for the top-ranked NHL PK unit.

Some of the prospect lovers in the Bruins fan base were hoping the injury meant an immediate recall for Ryan Spooner, who made his debut for Boston earlier this season amid a flurry of injuries. But instead the Bruins will slide Rich Peverley over to the center position and drop Jay Pandolfo into the left wing spot where his experience and penalty kill abilities will help mitigate a portion of the loss of Kelly.

Kelly was one of four Bruins forwards (Patrice Bergeron, Gregory Campbell and Rich Peverley are the others) that averaged more than 2 minutes of shorthanded ice time per game. They’ll miss his abilities in the face-off circle (winning over 60 percent of his draws) and the support he gives to the defensive in their own zone.

“Going through this ground for the next two months we knew we were going to need some guys to step [up],” said Claude Julien. “We also knew we’d need some experienced guys that could be very useful. We’re lucky to have guys like [Rich] Peverley and [Tyler] Seguin that have played center throughout most of their careers, so we [have] the ability to slide them over to center."

“Peverley is going to have to fill some big shoes there because Kelly is a really versatile centerman, [he] can do a lot of different things for us. But at least Peverley is also very good on the face-offs, so we won’t lose a lot there.”

What will the Bruins have to accomplish to offset the loss of Kelly from the Boston lineup?

“I think, as far as our skills and the way we play the game, I have a few commonalities with [Kelly], but I think we’re all going to need to step up,” said Pandolfo. “I’m sure I’ll see a little more time on the ice."

“They wanted me here in case somebody goes down. I’m looking forward to getting some confidence going and getting comfortable because all of that comes with the more minutes that you play.”

They also lose one of their left-handed face-off guys with Kelly, so they’re down to just Campbell as a left handed center on the draw. But that’s a minor thing that they’ll have to do without, as many NHL teams around them are getting stung much harder with the injury bug.

Luckily, Pandolfo has been an ace penalty killer during his long NHL career and is known more for his defensive abilities than anything else in his pro career. The offense may take a hit in the short term, but that’s what may prompt the Bruins front office to begin truly flexing their muscles in the trade market.

Boston has had scouts watching the Capitals, Flyers, Flames and Sharks among other teams in recent weeks, and there’s little doubt the club is looking at a top four defenseman and a big, experienced winger to bolster their roster. The Jay Bouwmeester/Jarome Iginla combination in Calgary would certainly fit that bill if the Bruins truly wanted to get bold with their deadline efforts, but there may be other smaller options that could be every bit as effective.

It starts with Peverley and Pandolfo helping to stabilize things on the third line and cover for the absence of an alternate captain and key veteran presence in Kelly. Then the Bruins can start putting together permanent solutions with an eye toward the playoffs, just in case Kelly has a difficult time returning by the time the postseason rolls around.