BOSTON -- Nathan Horton, injured Monday during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, was released from the hospital Tuesday but is expected to miss the rest of the Final because of a concussion, according to a statement from Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli.
Horton was injured at 5:07 of the first period of Game 3 against Vancouver. Horton sent a pass from the center of the ice to the left wing at the Canucks' blue line and was hit late by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, who was assessed a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct. On Tuesday, the NHL increased the penalty to a four-game suspension that will carry over into next season if the rest of the Final goes fewer than four games.
"It's tough to see teammates go down like that," said Milan Lucic, who was the recipient of Horton's pass. "Right now we're worried about our friend and teammate and his ability to make a full recovery."
Added teammate Andrew Ference: "We got updates, but I know a couple guys wanted to go see him (Monday) night. I don't think even his family was allowed to stick around the hospital because he was getting lots of tests and observation and whatnot."
Horton had found a home on Boston's top line this season after joining the Bruins in a trade with the Florida Panthers last June. He has 8 goals in this postseason, including series-clinching, Game 7 tallies against Montreal and Tampa Bay. Each of his goals has come in a Boston victory.
"The NHL did its job; they punished the player that made the hit," Ference said. "That's all they can really do. Obviously, it is not even-up when you look at the two players' impact on their teams. But what can you do? That's not our decision to make. Our responsibility is to support (Horton) as a teammate and the guy who is stepping in obviously has a big job to come in ready and do a good job."
Added Bruins coach Claude Julien: "I think it's important for our whole League to protect our players from those kind of hits. Again, I support them. Whether you agree or not, you support them. I support them with the (Alexandre) Burrows decision and I'm supporting them with this one, as well. ... We lost a pretty good player. Obviously glad to know that it's not as bad as you always suspect. For him to be out (of the hospital), got out this morning, has gone back home, obviously a long road to recovery, but hopefully he gets better soon."
In Horton's absence in Game 3, Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder split the even-strength shifts on Boston's top line next to David Krejci and Lucic. Julien tried to keep his second and fourth lines intact, while working third-liners Peverley, Ryder and Chris Kelly in where he could.
Who replaces Horton on the top line remains to be determined, but it is likely that rookie Tyler Seguin will take his place on the roster. Seguin had played the previous nine postseason games before sitting out Game 3 as a healthy scratch.
The last time Seguin was added to the active roster, he promptly had 3 goals and 3 assists in his first two Stanley Cup Playoff games, effectively turning the Eastern Conference Finals in Boston's favor with a four-point period in Game 2.
"I think the demands are high," Ference said. "We've talked about that at different points of the year when people ask about young guys on the team. We don't treat our rookies like rookies in a lot of different ways. We give them respect, but we also demand a lot of them and we expect them to be ready in situations like that.
"So a guy like (Seguin) -- he is expected to be ready to perform and be dynamic and play to his potential. That's a credit to him as an individual to be prepared, but it is also part of the atmosphere of our room -- everybody, no matter if it is (Mark) Recchi or him, everybody has the same respect and the same demands."
One of Boston's biggest strengths is its depth at forward. The Bruins have played without top center Marc Savard since late January because of his latest concussion. Losing Savard was part of the impetus for Chiarelli acquiring Kelly and Peverley near the trade deadline.
The Bruins' depth was tested when Patrice Bergeron missed two games at the start of the conference semifinals against Philadelphia, and it will be in focus again as they try to complete a rally from two games down in this series without one of their top scorers.
"He's been a huge part of our success," Kelly said of Horton. "He's been clutch throughout these playoffs. Those were two huge goals to help us advance to the next round. He's a big part of the reason why we're here."