BOSTON — The Boston Bruins have three rookie defensemen in the lineup for the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Rangers.
It's not because they want to.
It's because they have to.
"As you know, we're getting thin here," Bruins coach Claude Julien said on Friday, a day after Torey Krug, in his first career NHL playoff game, scored to send the game into overtime and Boston defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven, second-round playoff series.
With veterans Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden injured, the Bruins used first-round draft pick Dougie Hamilton along with Krug and Mart Bartkowski on defense. Hamilton assisted on Krug's goal with 2:55 left in regulation, and Bartkowski played a career-high 26 minutes in the 3-2 victory over the Rangers.
"For a coach, you couldn't ask for a better situation," Julien said on Friday, when his team took the day off to rest up for Sunday's Game 2. "A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff down there (in the minor leagues) that's done a great job at preparing those guys."
Julien would not say whether any of his injured players would be able to return for the second game. If not, he'll continue to rely on his rookies. Hamilton, who made the team out of training camp and played 42 games in the lockout-shortened season, said it helps to know that he won't be yanked out of the lineup with one bad shift.
Even if it's only because the Bruins have no choice.
"For all of us, it's not just trying to belong, but getting that opportunity to get regular shifts. It helps you stay focused," he said. "It makes it easier when you have that confidence that you can just stay in the game and focus on the game."