Journeyman Whitfield finally in with the in crowd
PHILADELPHIA — Trent Whitfield was thrust into the mix in Game 4 last night after David Krejci was lost for the season after suffering an injury Wednesday in Game 3.
Krejci had surgery on a dislocated right wrist, so Bruins coach Claude Julien had to make a decision between Whitfield, a 32-year-old vet of 193 NHL games, and Brad Marchand, a 21-year-old prospect who has yet to dress in the playoffs.
“You never want to see anybody get hurt, especially a key guy like Krej,’’ Whitfield said. “He’s not a guy that you’re just going to jump in and fill his shoes and that’s what I got to realize. But I was, obviously, excited that I could get the opportunity.
“So I just tried to stay focused and stay calm and get my rest to make sure that I’m ready to put my best foot forward and not try to do too much and just try to stay within myself.’’
Whitfield said he got the word he’d be playing before yesterday morning’s skate at the Wachovia Center.
“They just told me to be ready because there was a good chance it’ll be you,’’ he said. “So yesterday I was thinking that it might be me and I just prepared that way.’’
But Whitfield had an inkling his number would be called when Julien spoke about how fortunate the Bruins were to have five centers on the roster.
“Well, you know, Krej being a center I thought it might be a tipping point for them,’’ said Whitfield, who played in seven games with the Bruins this season (one assist, seven penalty minutes), spending most of his time in Providence.
“But you never know,’’ he said. “Sometimes you want some young energy. They got a young prospect in Marchand, who they want to get some playoff experience, too, at some point. So I thought that might come into play.’’
Last night, that seemed to be the case.
“He’s one of those guys who’s got experience,’’ Julien said of Whitfield, who was selected by the Bruins in the fifth round (100th overall) in 1996. He has played for the Capitals, Rangers, and Blues, interspersed with stops in the minors.
“He’s been around,’’ Julien said. “He brings grit and he certainly can kill penalties. This is kind of what we’re looking at right now. As I mentioned, I felt the fact we had five centermen in our lineup when we lost Krejci really bailed us out.
“Center is a pretty unique position to play. We’ve got guys who have played center who also play the wing, so we’ve got guys we can move around. Right now, he brings some versatility in there, but at the same time we like Marchand and what he brings as well.’’
Whitfield said his last playoff appearance was in 2003, going scoreless with 10 penalty minutes in six games with the Capitals. But the first time? Whitfield had no trouble recalling that memory. After all, his first NHL game came in a playoff with the Capitals against the Penguins of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
“I was in the minors,’’ Whitfield recalled. “I was in Portland. We were playing in the playoffs in Portland and all of a sudden I got a call kind of out of the blue, but it was exciting. Obviously, it was against Mario and Jagr and those guys, so it was exciting. I think I played about seven or eight minutes. It was kind of a blur, actually.’’
Just as the last 48 hours have been for Whitfield.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.