(CBS/AP) — Heading into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston, both the Blackhawks and Bruins could be playing without their star player.
Jonathan Toews watched the end of the fifth game of the Stanley Cup Final from the Blackhawks bench, unable to play after a hit to his head.
Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron was in a Chicago hospital after leaving the United Center by ambulance.
As the prepare for a series-clinching game, the attention shifted from the players on the ice to the ones who might not make it there, including two of the top forwards and biggest stars in the series.
“It’s not the best situation for either team,” Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said Sunday after both teams flew back to Boston. “But it’s a tough sport, and injuries happen. When you leave it all out there to help your team win, that’s all part of the game.”
Bergeron was injured in the second period of Game 5 on Saturday night, which the Blackhawks won 3-1 to take a 3-2 lead in the series. He made two brief appearances on the ice in the third period but something was obviously wrong and he was unable to complete either shift.
Toews, who won the Selke Award as the NHL’s top defensive forward — Bergeron was a finalist — missed the entire third period after a shot to the head from Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
“They’re both great players,” Chicago winger Patrick Sharp said. “I think any coach in the league, any player in the league would like to have those guys on their team. They take pride in taking faceoffs, playing well away from the puck, making their linemates better, (they’re) both big parts of the locker room.
“I can’t speak for what Boston is dealing with, with Bergeron. I know I don’t need to say much about Jonathan. I think everyone knows what we think of him in our locker room. Hopefully we can have him back for (Monday).”
Bergeron, who was taken to the hospital for observation, was released later Saturday night and rejoined his teammates for a team meal.
“He was crushing some food,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said Sunday.
Bergeron was on the team flight back from Chicago. After the Bruins’ bus arrived at the TD Garden in the afternoon, he walked without crutches or assistance to a car and was driven away.
“He’s good. He came back with us and everything so hopefully he can play,” Marchand said. “He looked really good today. He had a nice suit on, very dashing. Obviously, he’s a big part of the team and hopefully he can play.”
The Blackhawks lost Toews after Boychuk knocked him down in the slot, making contact with his head. Boychuk wasn’t penalized, and NHL spokesman John Dellapina said on Sunday that the league reviewed the hit and there will be no supplemental discipline.
“I think they said it was clean, wasn’t it? Then I agree with them,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I’m not going to hide from that. If it wasn’t a clean hit — I’ve been a guy that supported those kind of things that we need to get out of the game. But it was a clean hit.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville alluded to the contact with the head but then said, “I’m not going to go there.”
Toews was tied with Patrick Kane for the Blackhawks’ team lead with 23 goals during the regular season. Since being reunited with Kane on Chicago’s top line in Game 4, Chicago has rallied to take the lead in the best-of-seven series. Before he was knocked out of the Game 5, Toews assisted on both of Kane’s goals.
“He’s our leader,” Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “You know, he’s one of those guys, and when he’s full-speed he gives everything he’s got every game. That’s something that is tough to replace.”
Quenneville said Toews was doing much better and the team is optimistic he will be able to play in Game 6.
“We’ll see how he is. I think the progress today, he’s doing real good,” Quenneville said. “We’ll visit in the morning, and he seemed fine. So nothing has changed. Nothing is different. We’ll keep an eye on him, and we’ll go from there.”
With or without Toews and Bergeron, the Blackhawks have a chance to clinch their second Stanley Cup title in four seasons on Monday night in Boston. If they lose, the series returns to Chicago for a decisive seventh game on Wednesday.
And that, Julien said, is why he wasn’t worried about whether Toews will play or not.
“I think I should be looking in my backyard and make sure I’ve got my guys playing tomorrow before I start worrying about the game plan with them,” he said. “Right now we know it’s up to us to … bring our ‘A’ game if we want a chance to win. That part of it should be more important than who they have and don’t have in their lineup.”
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