Bruins

With Jeremy Lauzon sidelined, time is now for Urho Vaakanainen to step into top-pairing role

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When it comes to replenishing a depleted D corps that's been decimated by injuries, Wednesday represented one step forward — and about three steps back for the Boston Bruins.

After missing two games with an upper-body injury, Jakub Zboril is expected to return to Boston's lineup for Thursday's road matchup against the Islanders. It's a welcome sight for a B's blue line that played without its three starting left-shot D for close to the entire outdoor matchup against the Flyers on Sunday at Lake Tahoe.

But beyond Zboril's return, don't expect plenty of reinforcements on Boston's defense quite yet.

Matt Grzelcyk, limited to just six games so far this season due to a slew of lower-body ailments, will travel with Boston down to New York and is getting "close," per Bruce Cassidy — but the puck-moving defenseman isn't expected to get the green light quite yet.

Kevan Miller, kept off the trip to Tahoe in order to rest some expected bumps and bruises, might be out longer than expected, with the veteran's surgically repaired knee not responding well after hitting the ice at Warrior on Tuesday morning.

Making matters worse, Jeremy Lauzon — who has served as one of Boston's top-pairing options alongside Charlie McAvoy — will now be on the shelf for at least a month, as the 23-year-old skater underwent surgery Wednesday for a fractured left hand that he suffered just minutes into Sunday's primetime matchup against Philly.

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Injuries are no surprise to the Bruins, especially on defense — with Boston entering Sunday's game with 35 man-games lost to various ailments.

But with three starters once again ruled out for Thursday, a scrappy group of blueliners — featuring two skaters who opened the season as depth pieces and two rookies — are going to be tasked with keeping Boston afloat during its toughest string of injuries in quite some time.

And at the forefront of this baptism by fire? A 22-year-old skater in Urho Vaakanainen, who — after years spent on the training-camp bubble — could be in line for a coveted top-pairing role up with the big club.