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December 30, 2013 | 10:10am ET
Bruins have time to replace Seidenberg
By Shawn Hutcheon,

BOSTON, MA -- The Holidays have become a memory and as we try to catch our breath and prepare for the New Year, let's take a look at the latest news out of Boston.

The Bruins are in first place in the Atlantic Division, second overall in the Eastern Conference.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask is in the top four in the NHL in wins, shutouts, save percentage, and goals-against-average, while Claude Julien has passed the 400 win mark as a the club's head coach.

Things are good in Boston... unless you begin to look at the injury list.

If you are old enough to remember the television show M.A.S.H., the Bruins list of injuries resembles that of the old army medical unit that took on new patients on a moment-by-moment basis.

Recent injuries forced the likes of Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton, Zdeno Chara, Chris Kelly, Loui Eriksson, Daniel Paille, and Carl Soderberg out of action. Not to mention, Shawn Thornton, who is serving his 15-game suspension.

Each player has been missed, however the Bruins organization is a very deep one.

Management has signed and drafted talented, young players, who play with Boston's American Hockey League affiliate in Providence. Some of those players have been recalled and have performed admirably. Players such as Kevan Miller, Matt Fraser, Craig Cunningham, Nick Johnson, Zach Trotman, and David Warsofsky went from being players whom people were not familiar to fan favorites in a hurry.

The fact that these players have the opportunity to join the big club in Boston and be productive contributors is a testament to the Boston organization in how they are developing for the future.

As time progresses, the veterans will return, although there are a few concerns. Eriksson is missing games due to his second concussion of the season and Kelly will be on the injured list for about four more weeks with a fractured leg.

But the one injury that will have the biggest effect on the team is defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's torn ACL/MCL in his right knee. Seidenberg will have surgery to reconstruct the joint and will miss the remainder of the 2013-14 season.

It is no stretch of the imagination to say the blueliner is all but irreplaceable. Seidenberg is widely considered the Black and Gold's second-best defenseman. In 34 games this year, he averaged 21:50 time on ice per game, including being second in even strength ice time and third in shorthanded situations. Seidenberg has also added 10 points on one goal and nine assists and when he sustained his injury, he was leading the Bruins with 66 blocked shots.

The minutes played by Seidenberg will most likely be split between veteran defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid.

The question on all minds is, other Boychuk and/or McQuaid, do the Bruins have a defenseman who can provide veteran leadership and also possess the shutdown capabilities Boston has lost for the season and the playoffs?

Clearly, the answer is no.

Julien can rely on Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, to a degree. All are still learning the NHL game and the trio recalled from Providence, David Warsofsky, Kevan Miller, and Zach Trotman, are gaining NHL experience, but they are not ready to make contributions along the lines of a Seidenberg.

This, in all probability, has Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli on the phone looking to add a veteran rearguard who will play a key role if Boston is to go on another long post-season run.

Oddly enough, though, there is one piece of good news concerning Seidenberg's injury and that is it occurred two months before the NHL trade deadline. This allows time for the youngsters to play and develop in Boston. Should they not show progress or the ability to handle the rigors of the NHL on a daily basis, they can be returned to the AHL while the GM searches for that piece of the puzzle that is suddenly missing.

Most importantly, the time allows Bruins management to scout and evaluate players from around the league.

Because the defenseman they bring in will only be needed for the remainder of this season and the playoffs, Chiarelli will most likely be on the hunt for a rental player set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

At this time, he can choose from a handful of defensemen with solid NHL experience, who may be available at the trade deadline. Those blueliners include Columbus' Nikita Nikitin, Buffalo's Henrik Tallinder, Edmonton's Nick Schultz, Philadelphia's Andrej Meszaros, or Phoenix's Rostislav Klesla.

The loss of Seidenberg would be devastating to most NHL squads' Stanley Cup hopes. Having the luxury of young defensemen who can play beside three veterans -- Chara, Boychuk, and McQuaid -- gives Chiarelli the time to evaluate available talent and ultimately bring in that veteran every club needs if it intends on winning the Stanley Cup. And in Boston, the Bruins intend on doing that every season.

Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.

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