Missing stars create Winter Classic opportunities for Bruins' young players

DJ Bean
December 31, 2015 - 10:08 am

[caption id="attachment_54636" align="alignright" width="150"] Joe Morrow[/caption] FOXBORO -- Growing up on a farm in Alberta, hockey for Joe Morrow was outdoors. The idea of playing in the Winter Classic this season was a dream, but not one that he necessarily thought would come true. With the Bruins having a revolving door of young defensemen this season, any one (or two) of Morrow, Colin Miller and Zach Trotman have found themselves susceptible to multiple-game press box duty. With the Winter Classic on this season'€™s schedule, Boston'€™s young defensemen could only play their hardest when put in the lineup and hope that door stopped in their favor on Jan. 1. With Thursday'€™s moves, Morrow appears to be the winner. Brad Marchand'€™s injury forced the B'€™s to demote Colin Miller to Providence in order to call up forward Alexander Khokhlachev. With Dennis Seidenberg playing the right side as Zdeno Chara'€™s partner, the left-shooting Morrow practiced on Boston'€™s third pairing with righty Kevan Miller on Thursday. Having played so many times outside over the years (including the 2013 AHL Outdoor Classic), Morrow said he "couldn'€™t be more grateful" for the opportunity to potentially play on Thursday. "It'€™s a game that you mark on your schedule right from Game 1. Right from training camp, it'€™s something that you look forward to and you hope you'€™re on the roster and you hope you'€™re playing in it," Morrow said. "To be able to get that opportunity is something that'€™s pretty special. I'€™m pretty grateful for it. I didn'€™t really see it coming, but now that it'€™s here and going to happen, I'€™m pretty excited for it. It should be a good time." Morrow knows it'€™s taken bad luck for his teammate in order for him to play. Colin Miller, who has played more games (28) than Morrow (13) or Trotman (16) had to be sent down because he was the only one of Boston'€™s eight defensemen who could be sent to the AHL without requiring waivers. Having become fast friends with the former Manchester Monarchs defenseman, Morrow feels for Miller.  "That'€™s an extremely tough situation," Morrow said. "I mean, there'€™s nothing he can do about it, which is probably the hardest part. You can'€™t kick yourself over it. To be that close with a guy and not be able to share that experience with him kind of bums me out a little bit, too. It'€™s a tough one, but he'€™s a phenomenal hockey player. ... If he doesn'€™t get [this experience] his rookie year here, then he'€™ll definitely get one down the road." Morrow isn'€™t the only one who figures to find himself in the Winter Classic amidst the Bruins'€™ roster changes. Seth Griffith, the victim of bad luck and injuries earlier in the season, has hit the lottery by going from Providence to being the Bruins'€™ first-line right wing in the Winter Classic in a number of days. Khokhlachev, who skated on the right wing of the Bruins'€™ third line with Frank Vatrano and Landon Ferraro on Thursday, also figures to be in Friday'€™s lineup. For Griffith, all of this good news -- his recent hot streak in the AHL (five goals and 11 assists for 16 points over nine games), his callup -- probably feels overdue. A sprained MCL in training camp set his season back until late October, with a concussion also disrupting his third professional season. To have such an optimistic stretch has been a relief for the 22-year-old. "I was battling injuries for a while, and it wears on you a little bit, too," Griffith said. "Two injuries right off the bat, it'€™s tough, but I started to find my game, I started to get healthy and I feel like I do when I first came into camp, which is good, so I'€™m headed in the right direction." The Canadiens will have a new addition to their lineup on Friday, but it will be a much bigger name. The team confirmed Friday that star right wing Brendan Gallagher will make his return from a hand injury that forced him to miss the last 17 games. Gallagher practiced Thursday on a line with Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec.