Boston Bruins defenseman Jakub Zboril had surgery for a torn ACL and is out for the rest of the season. Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

The Bruins season may be officially on pause, but the team continued to make news on Tuesday. A lot of it was not very good.

The team announced that defenseman Jakub Zboril, the 2015 first-round pick who had made solid strides to becoming an everyday NHLer, had undergone knee surgery for the torn ACL he suffered in a game in Nashville on Dec. 2.

Also, defenseman Brandon Carlo became the 10th Bruin player to enter the NHL’s COVID protocol. With the two staffers also in protocol, that makes it an even dozen.

On the bright side, Coach Bruce Cassidy said everyone in protocol is feeling relatively healthy and he expects that he’ll be getting some players back when (or if?) the Bruins’ season restarts on Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh at the Garden. The Bruins’ next scheduled game is on Dec. 29 at Ottawa, and Canada requires a 14-day waiting period after a testing positive, which will cost the Bruins a few players.

“I haven’t talked to everybody every day, but nobody’s become severely ill,” said Cassidy. “A couple of guys had a few symptoms. Other guys, none. But I anticipate everybody that is eligible that meets that 10 days, or I understand you can test out if you have a couple of negatives (two negative tests 24 hours apart), then they will join us on the ice on (Sunday) for practice and then on (Monday) at home for Pittsburgh.”

As of now, it appears that Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar, who tested positive on Dec. 18, and Carlo would not be eligible to return for the Pittsburgh game.

Cassidy said that from both a mental and physical health standpoint, he hopes the isolation period for players and staffers going through it will not be as challenging as it was a year ago, thanks to the vaccines.

“It’s different than a year ago. The vaccine wasn’t available, nor were boosters, so you were seeing a lot more hospitalizations, so you were worried about guys interacting with anybody. Now the guys, all our players and staff are vaccinated, so I feel like that has a lot to do with why guys aren’t requiring hospitalization or extended stays where they’re not able to get up and move around,” said Cassidy. “I think that’s the one thing that’s better from a year ago. Players can get up and move around. They’re feeling healthy. Obviously they’ve got to stay away from people but by the same token, they see the light at the end of the tunnel a lot better now than they may have a year ago with the numbers and that’s all people talked about. Again, the numbers are up but I don’t think the severe cases for people who are vaccinated, are which includes our guys. That’s the better news there for our players.”

DR. PETER ASNIS performed Zboril’s surgery last Thursday. Zboril had played 10 games this season with three assists and was plus-1. Cassidy had his own career trajectory severely altered by ACL tears, but hopes that won’t be the case for Zboril.

“I went through that injury twice. With today’s modern medicine, he should have an easier rehab and be fine coming out of it,” said Cassidy. “But for his sake, he was playing good hockey for us and kind of earned a spot in the lineup on a regular basis. Because of that he was playing with a little more confidence and a little more certainty in his game and you’d hope it would have only gotten better. Unfortunately for him, and the team obviously, he’s going to be done for the year. Hopefully there’s no complications in his rehabilitation and he can help us again next year.”

BECAUSE OF THEIR strangely light early season schedule and now their postponements, the Bruins are tied with the Islanders for fewest games played so far (26). Still, they are on the outside of the playoff bracket, trailing the Red Wings for the second wild card by three points (and a whopping five games in hand). Chief among the concerns is the ability to score goals. The Bruins are 23rd in goals per game (2.69).

“There’s been a little inconsistency at times,” said Cassidy. “Obviously team defense has been solid from Day One. Special teams are are good. They can get a little better if we want to get to where we’ve been historically, but still pretty solid. For us, it’s putting the puck in the net. We’ve generated opportunities. We need to generate more high-end opportunities. We started doing a little better at that… getting inside ice. Typically we’ve been at the top of the division battling with Tampa and Toronto for first place. That’s not the case this year. Obviously that’s where we want to be. By the same token, we’ve added five new faces, plus faces at the deadline last year that were basically coming in and getting ready to play, so there wasn’t a ton of integration going on then. So we expected a few bumps in the road and we’ve just got to iron them out. I believe we’ll be better coming out of this break, once we’re through the COVID isolation period and guys can get back to joining the group… I still think we’re a solid team, but we’re not where Tampa is right now. And that’s fine. We’ve got 56 games to get there and that’s our job to make sure we get better as we go along.”

THOUGH THERE HAS not be an official announcement yet, all signs point to the NHL not going to the Beijing Olympics in February. Cassidy has been on Canada’s team staff and has been preparing as best he can in conversations with head coach Jon Cooper and fellow assistant Barry Trotz and will continue to do so until a withdrawal is official. It does not look promising, however.

“Fingers crossed, but, yes, I’ve heard the rumblings. And I’d be very disappointed. I’ve never been, as most people haven’t, so I was really looking forward to it. It doesn’t matter where it was going to be. It was just the whole environment of the Olympics, being around the best athletes in the world in every sport,” said Cassidy.

WITH THE NHL moving the Christmas break up a day, the Bruins and other team will get a practice on Sunday prior to their scheduled game against the Penguins. But with players in protocol for 10 days, it will still be a challenge to get ready for game action.

“Having gone through this a number of times over the last couple of years, I believe most players have found a routine for themselves at least doing some off-ice training, because you’re not going to make it up in one day of practice,” said Cassidy. “We were fortunate to get that day. We originally weren’t going to have it. We were going to get right into playing. It was nice that they did slot in one practice day on the 26th. Most teams are in the same boat.”


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