On Wednesday, Bruins winger Loui Eriksson was the victim of a cheap shot to the head, courtesy of John Scott. There’s been no shortage of discussion about the player (Scott), the hit, and the punishment over the past few days. So far, the news that we have is that Scott has been suspended indefinitely, while Eriksson sustained a concussion and the time table for his return has yet to be determined. The Bruins are hoping for a speedy recovery for Eriksson, but in the meantime, what does the injury mean for the team?
The Jordan Caron/Carl Soderberg Competition
When Carl Soderberg returned from an ankle injury last Saturday, many believed that this signaled the end of Jordan Caron’s days on the Bruins third line, and possibly the active roster. With Eriksson out, both Soderberg and Caron will be given top nine minutes, and in effect, an opportunity to prove that they are deserving of the spot on the third line wing. This competition should benefit the team, as both players will look to elevate their game as they fight for playing time. Soderberg figures to slide into the spot that Eriksson has vacated, while Caron will likely play alongside Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand, at least to start.
With Eriksson out, the pressure on Brad Marchand to get going will be intensified. After struggling early, Claude Julien bumped him to the third line and promoted Reilly Smith to the second line. Smith has not conceded any ground since joining the Bergeron line, which makes this opportunity critical for Marchand. Initially, the Bruins might keep Marchand on the third line, forcing him to earn back his former spot, and giving Carl Soderberg a chance to play with the second line for the first time. If the Bruins plan on keeping up their torrid pace, Marchand will need to re-discover his scoring touch, and in doing so, re-claim his spot next to Patrice Bergeron.
Before Eriksson was injured, Reilly Smith’s strong performance was a pleasant surprise. Now, as Marchand looks to bounce back and Eriksson recovers from the concussion, the Bruins will need Smith to keep up his high level of play. Smith will be in line for time on the power play and the penalty kill while Eriksson is on the shelf, giving him an opportunity to solidify his spot in the top six. He has risen to the occasion time and time again this season, but this opportunity could define his role going forward this season and beyond.
In the short term, the Bruins have the depth necessary to work around the loss of Eriksson. If Eriksson misses an extended period of time, the Bruins will need increased contributions from everyone on the roster to maintain their strong start. We’ve seen the Bruins rally around injuries like this before, making impressive runs in the playoffs following the questionable hits on Marc Savard and Nathan Horton, but can they do it again? I wouldn’t bet against them.