NHL Boston Bruins

Moving on without Nathan Horton

With the news of Aaron Rome’s suspension — four games, ending his Stanley Cup finals experience — the Bruins can carry on with a sense of closure, but nothing resembling justice. No team in their right mind would trade Nathan Horton for Aaron Rome, so the Bruins are left without a top-line sniper, while the Canucks get to fill in their bottom defensive pairing.

It must be hard for fans to keep from shaking their heads, wondering how this type of injury keeps happening to their elite scoring talent. First Patrice Bergeron in 2007, then Marc Savard, now Horton. Bergeron made a full recovery, albeit one that took the better part of two years. Savard made an attempt, suffered a second serious concussion, and may be looking at the end of his playing days.

It’s too early to tell where Horton, 26, will stand after all is said and done. He has a long road to recovery ahead of him, and will be on his own schedule. What comes next for the Bruins is filling in the production and power he provided on the top line.

With that in mind, here are a few of the players expected to step up in Horton’s absence:

Michael Ryder: Ryder has played off and on with David Krejci in the past four seasons, lining up beside him and Blake Wheeler for nearly all of 2008-09, so there is some history there. He has a quick, accurate release and his defensive play has really come up in the past few seasons. While he won’t be the monster Horton had been in these playoffs, he can certainly fill the gap — when he’s at his best.

Rich Peverley: In his brief tenure with the Bruins, Peverley has found time on all four lines, playing off wing and center, providing a strong two-way game and scoring punch here and there. He seems to get along with everyone on the ice, can take face-offs when Krejci is thrown off the dot, and seems to know when to make the right percentage play and when to jump into the zone. Wherever Claude Julien puts him, he responds. Don’t expect anything different if Peverley gets the call.

Tyler Seguin: If anyone needed any more evidence that Julien knows which buttons to push and when to push them, look no further than Monday night. To the surprise of many, Seguin was scratched in favor of Shawn Thornton, re-energizing that fourth line and giving the team a boost via Thornton’s energy, even if he doesn’t have Seguin’s explosive potential.

Julien doesn’t have to choose between the two now. Seguin will almost certainly dress tonight, and though he’s more likely to reclaim his spot on the third line at right wing, seeing him skate alongside Krejci and Milan Lucic wouldn’t be a total shock. He has the speed and creativity to warrant the spot, and the thought of him alongside Krejci, who’s been as hot as anyone in the NHL this past month, is exciting. What remains in question is his defensive game and how he can respond to the physicality of the Canucks. He won’t likely get the spot, but it’s an interesting thought.

My solution: Ryder has played very well with Chris Kelly, and the two seem to have good chemistry with Seguin. I’d keep the Ryder-Kelly-Seguin trio together, sliding Peverley up to the first line with Lucic and Krejci.

Likely solution: Though both Ryder and Peverley saw time on the top line after Horton was knocked out of Game 3, I expect Ryder to at least get the first few shifts in Game 4.