|Bruins center David Krejci leads the team with 13 playoff goals. (Getty)|
BOSTON -- While the health and well-being of Nathan Horton was of the utmost concern to each and every member of the Bruins' organization, there's still plenty of hockey to be played and the Black and Gold are going to have to do so without one of their biggest contributors.
Horton chipped in 17 points over the course of 21 playoff tilts, including three game-winners and two strikes in overtime. Unfortunately those numbers were finalized on Tuesday afternoon, as the clutch winger was ruled out for the remainder of the postseason with a severe concussion.
The Bruins scored eight goals after Horton left the ice on a stretcher in the first period, defeating the Canucks 8-1 in Game 3 to close to within a win of tying up their Stanley Cup Finals series. But, coming anywhere close to having that kind of offensive success, especially without their top winger, will be a tall task.
"It’s not easy to play without one of your best players," said David Krejci, Horton's linemate for majority of the season. "But everybody knows that we have to step up our game and play for him, too. I think last game we did exactly that. We didn’t care, we just went out there and played the game and won it for him. Everybody was chipping in and that’s what happened and that’s what is going to happen tonight."
Michael Ryder is the favorite to flank Krejci and take Horton's spot on the top line, while Rich Peverley could also be in the mix. Finding an exact replacement for Horton, as Krejci will attest to, is impossible.
"There is no one like Horty, just Looch [Milan Lucic]," the Czech pivot said. "But Horty is out so there is going to be someone else. It’s going to be a different guy, a different type of player. So you have to recognize it and help each other after. And hopefully we can put the puck in the net."
One thing working in the Bruins favor is the fact that Ryder and Krejci have had great success together in previous seasons. The two formed a line with Blake Wheeler during the 2008-09 campaign and flourished as a unit. Krejci hopes that previous connection bodes well for the B's in Game 4.
"Yeah, I played with him a few years back," he said. "We have good chemistry we had a really good year. I played with him last game for a few shifts. We’ve been playing together for some time and we know each other pretty well. So if I play with him then we know what to expect of each other."
Coach Claude Julien wouldn't reveal whether or not the Bruins would turn to Ryder to join Krejci and Milan Lucic on the first line, but he did stress that it's not just one player who has to step up his game in Horton's absence.
"It's going to take everybody to play well again, not just because Nathan is out of our lineup, but that's what it's going to take to beat this team," said Julien. "We've known that from the start. Didn't think we had that full team effort in the first couple of games. Last game was a little bit better. We need to continue with that trend."
As for the possibility of the Bruins exacting revenge for Aaron Rome's vicious hit on their prized winger, Julien says you can forget about it. The best way the B's can avenge Horton is on the scoreboard.
"We desperately need a win to get ourselves back in this series," the coach said. "That's where our focus is. It's certainly not going to be about looking for revenge. Justice has been served, so there's no other reason to look for more.
"I think we just have to go out there, and if we really want to make Nathan happy, we know what we have to do to make him happy, and that's to win the Stanley Cup."