The Bruins’ upcoming four-game road trip could be the most important string of games Boston plays all season with how tight the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference wild-card races are. Unfortunately for Boston, they may be without defenseman John-Michael Liles for the duration of the trip.
Boston announced Friday morning that Liles, 35, will not travel with the team to Toronto where the Bruins are set to battle the Maple Leafs in an attempt to snap a five-game losing streak. Liles hasn’t picked up a point in his past eight games, but he’s been taking on second- and third-pairing minutes for Boston since coming over at the trade deadline.
Liles was injured in the second period of Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers and did not return to the game. The Bruins said he is awaiting further evaluation. The injury came when Liles was pinching down into the Panthers’ zone, where he was crunched along the boards by Florida winger Garrett Wilson. Liles was barely able to get himself to the Bruins’ bench:
With Liles out of the lineup, Zach Trotman or Joe Morrow will draw back into the lineup after watching Thursday’s game. However, if Liles is gone for the duration of the road trip — which isn’t a certainty yet — the Bruins could be facing the same defensive depth issues they were before acquiring Liles from the Hurricanes.
The loss is even bigger if Liles is out for an extended period of time considering the recent slide in Beantown. Less than two weeks ago, the Bruins had picked up points in seven consecutive games and were sitting atop the Atlantic Division with designs on entering the post-season with the division’s top seed. Now, held without a point in their past five games, the Bruins are only a point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the third spot in the Atlantic and might have to worry about keeping pace with the red hot Philadelphia Flyers.
Luckily for the Bruins, four of their final seven games come against teams not currently holding a post-season position, but their recent slide could make their April 7 meeting with the Red Wings a must-watch with huge playoff implications.