Bruins have hole at center

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / May 7, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA — If there was anything positive about Bruins center David Krejci dislocating his right wrist in the first period Wednesday night, it was that the right doctor was in the house.

Flyers team physician Thomas Graham, surgeon-in-chief at Baltimore’s Union Memorial Hospital, was at the Wachovia Center for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series when Philadelphia’s Mike Richards dropped Krejci with a serious injury — one that required swift attention.

After the game, Krejci traveled with Graham to Baltimore, where he underwent surgery to repair his dislocated wrist, ending his participation in this postseason. With recovery projected to be 3-4 months, Krejci is expected to be ready for the Bruins’ 2010-11 preseason, part of which will take place in his native Czech Republic.

“We were fortunate enough to have one of the best hand surgeons in the country — that’s what I’ve been told — on hand here,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien yesterday. “He works out of Baltimore and lives there. He was nice enough to bring David back with him and do the surgery [Wednesday night].’’

The injury was serious enough that the Bruins opted for immediate surgery instead of sending Krejci back to Boston for treatment. According to Dr. George Kasparyan, director of hand surgery at Lahey Clinic, a dislocated wrist — which occurs when one of the eight wrist bones separates from the end of the radius — involves three major concerns that require prompt attention.

First, blood flow to the wrist bones is compromised. The faster the bones are placed back into alignment, the more likely the blood flow will resume properly. If the bones are not aligned quickly, a patient can suffer osteonecrosis, or what is commonly called a dying bone.

Second, there is often significant pressure placed on the nerves in the wrist. Surgery is required to relieve that pressure.

Third, there is what Kasparyan termed “excruciating pain.’’

“By their nature, once a dislocation occurs, it almost always requires operative intervention to repair the ligaments of the wrist,’’ Kasparyan said. “It’s an injury of urgency.’’

The injury leaves the Bruins without their second-line center and perhaps their most offensive-minded postseason pivot. Krejci (4-4—8 in nine games) had centered Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan during even-strength situations. He was the quarterback on the No. 1 power-play unit on the left half-boards. And he had been killing penalties alongside Blake Wheeler.

Including Game 3, in which he played only 2:25, Krejci averaged 19:06 of ice time in the playoffs. He had won 50 percent of his faceoffs (61 for 122).

Combined with the Game 1 loss of Marco Sturm (torn ACL and MCL in his right knee), the Bruins are without two top-six forwards, and in Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart, they have been absent two top-four defensemen — though Stuart could be cleared to play in Game 4 tonight.

“It’s unfortunate,’’ Julien said. “I know that other teams are going through it. You’re talking about Sturm, who was your top goal scorer this year. You’re talking about Krejci, who was one of your top centermen. It’s never easy to lose guys like that. We’ve got two guys who were part of our top four D’s that are out of our lineup still.

“It’s part of the game. It’s one that you can’t dwell on because it takes away the focus from what you need to do to succeed. That’s where, as a coach, you look at what you’ve got, and you’ve got to make the best of what you’ve got.’’

In Game 3, Vladimir Sobotka and Marc Savard took turns centering Lucic and Satan. Sobotka also centered them earlier this season. But against Buffalo in the first round, Sobotka had chemistry between Wheeler and Michael Ryder while Savard was unavailable.

“We’ve got to step up,’’ Savard said. “I don’t know that we want to force ourselves to do more. You can get in trouble that way.’’

While Wheeler could replace Krejci on the top power-play unit and Sobotka can fill in as a penalty killer, the Bruins will need either Trent Whitfield or Brad Marchand to step in as the 12th forward. Both have been healthy scratches throughout the playoffs.

The coaching staff has yet to decide which player will get the nod tonight. But based on Julien’s comments yesterday, Whitfield is the logical choice. Whitfield, who served as Providence’s captain this season, is a natural center who could play on the fourth line with Steve Begin and Shawn Thornton. Whitfield can take faceoffs (57.9 percent during the regular season) and kill penalties (1:01 average shorthanded time per game).

“One thing we were fortunate with [in Game 3] was that we had five centermen in our lineup,’’ said Julien, referring to Krejci, Bergeron, Savard, Sobotka, and Begin. “That’s a position that’s not an easy one to play. Having that, to be able to continue having four centermen up the middle certainly paid off, especially with faceoffs and the demands on those guys.

“Now, whether we decide to put another centerman in or whether we decide to put a winger in to fill the spot, that’s the thing we have to look at. Then make a decision based on that.’’

Whitfield appeared in three playoff games (his first NHL call-up) for Washington in 1999-2000 after spending most of the season in Portland, the Capitals’ AHL affiliate at the time. Whitfield has dressed in 14 career playoff games, all for Washington.

“That was my first-ever NHL game,’’ recalled Whitfield, one of eight Bruins to skate yesterday at the Wachovia Center. “It was real exciting. I went out there and tried to work hard and keep it simple.’’

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