Statistically Bruins appear equipped to fill first-line void without Savard

Krejci can fill in for Savard/By S. Bradley

When it comes to playing without Marc Savard, the Bruins have had plenty of practice already this season.

Savard sat out the first 23 games of this season, as he worked his way back from his summertime bout with post-concussion syndrome. After he hit his head during the second period in Denver Saturday, Savard left the game and today he flew back to Boston to be re-examined. We won’t know how long he’s going to be out until at least Monday.

During Savard’s prior absence, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron filled his skates as the team’s first-line center, and based on the numbers they handled that role fairly well.

For argument’s sake, and regardless of the individual statistics to this point in the season, I’ll classify the Bruins’ first line as any trio that features Nathan Horton on one wing and either Milan Lucic or Michael Ryder on the other side. It was Lucic’s injury absence, which started Jan. 11, that bumped Ryder up to Savard’s side opposite Horton.

For the first 11 games of the season, Krejci centered Lucic and Horton and produced 10 even-strength points (two goals). In total, in the 24 games he has been the team’s first-line center he had 20 even-strength points (five goals) — a solid pace, especially compared to his 10 points (two goals) in 17 games, power-play included, on a line lower on the depth chart. At practice today in Los Angeles, Krejci centered Lucic and Horton, which was a combination that succeeded at the start of the season. That could be Krejci’s lineup spot Monday night against the Kings.

For Bergeron, the first stint on the first line was solid — forced by Krejci’s concussion — with four assists at even strength in six games. Obviously, this was a tougher stretch of games to be Boston’s No. 1 pivot with Krejci and Savard both out of the lineup. Later in November, Bergeron failed to register two points in two games after head coach Claude Julien executed a line juggle.

One of the pillars of Peter Chiarelli’s strategy as general manager of the Bruins has to been to make sure the team is loaded at center. It shows in his pick of free agents and his draft classes. Without Savard for another extended time, the Bruins might find it harder to cope. But recent history suggests the Bruins have enough top-end talent behind Savard to make do.

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