Bruins top four defenseman Aaron Ward showed up on crutches for today's morning skate on Causeway Street, which meant he wasn't skating, and which also meant he won't be in uniform tonight when the Bruins face the Panthers at the Garden.
Initial indication: a deep bruise, possibly on the bone. But it could be worse.
The Bruins are awaiting results of X-rays taken at Mass. General this morning. Ward took a shot off of his right foot the night before in Washington, where the Bruins suffered a humiliating 10-2 loss to the Caps.
''The foot's swollen, and [Ward] can't get it into his skate,'' said coach Claude Julien.
Bobby Allen, who last suited up Dec. 22 vs. St. Louis, will take Ward's place on the back line. Allen has been hindered by back spasms.
''I'm optimistic I've turned the corner with it,'' said Allen, referring to his aching back. ''I've been O.K. with everything I've done.''
Some good news
Despite the eight-goal shellacking the night before in D.C., there were a couple of encouraging signs at today's optional workout:
1. Patrice Bergeron, slowly recovering from a Grade 3 concussion sustained Oct. 27, joined a smattering of teammates on the ice for the first time, and worked out for a total of 28 minutes. Most significantly, he boosted his heart rate to approximately 175 beats per minute, and experienced no negative consequences over the course of the workout.
''My lungs are burning, but I'd expect that,'' said the 22-year-old Bergeron, his face flushed after the workout, as if he just came in from a chilly day of skating outdoors in Quebec City.
''It felt good to be out there, and to get my heart rate higher, that's for sure. Now we'll see how I feel during the day, and tonight....whether the headaches come back.''
Bergeron hopes to work out for 28 minutes each of the next couple of days, and if he continues to respond well, he'll gradually boost the length of the workouts, perhaps to 30 or 32 minutes.
2. Manny Fernandez, who underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ligament in December, was in full gear and faced shots for more than a half hour. Fernandez, 33, did the same thing Monday in Wilmington, but only with Bergeron available as a shooter.
''It felt really good,'' said an enthusiastic Fernandez, acquired last summer, and penciled in immediately as the club's No. 1 stopper. ''But I was limited to doing some of the things out there.''
The big test for Fernandez's wounded knee will be when he makes the necessary butterfly move, dropping to both knees and fanning out his pads. That big test is at least a few days away, he said.
''But this is a positive step in the right direction,'' he said.
A bad night in net
Amid the carnage with the Caps, Julien called on backup Alex Auld to sub for Tim Thomas in net when Washington built its lead to 4-0 in the first. Auld finished up, allowed another pair before the break, and then yielded to Thomas for the start of the second. Auld was back for more work in the third.
''I think you guys probably thought it was Mike Keenan after a while,'' said Julilen, referring to the Calgary coach, known for his penchant to pull goalies.
Julien explained he knew he was going to use Auld as tonight's starter and slotted him there only as a way to get his game warmed up for tonight.
News and notes
Stanislav Chistov, back after a disappointing stint in Russia this season, participated in the optional morning workout. GM Peter Chiarelli continues evaluating the enigmatic forward, and possibly could activate him here before the regular season ends. ... Andrew Alberts, who has been out of the lineup with concussion-like symptoms since mid-December, also participated in the workout. ... The Bruins kept to their plan and checked into a downtown hotel immediately after returning from D.C. ''We haven't been good this year, playing a home game in back-to-back situations,'' explained Julien. ''This way we made sure guys get their proper rest, and hopefully that will put the odds on our side for tonight.''