BRIGHTON — There was a noticeable absence on the Bruins’ three-game road trip. On Wednesday, that particular absentee joined his teammates at practice for the first time in over a week.
Given that he wasn’t slowed down by any lingering effects of a lower body injury that caused him to miss those three games, all things are looking up for Patrice Bergeron’s return to the lineup, which could come as early as Thursday when the Bruins host the Devils for the home opener at TD Garden.
“I think he is on track to play tomorrow,” head coach Claude Julien said following Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “Unless something I’m told otherwise today or tomorrow and he feels any different, we’re hoping that he’s going to be back in the lineup.”
Skating in a gold jersey with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, Bergeron took part in all of the drills at Wednesday’s practice. The longest-tenured Bruin also led the team in the traditional post-practice stretch at center ice.
Though he’ll test things out tomorrow before a final decision is made on his status, today’s participation was a step in the right direction for Bergeron.
“We’re just going by how I feel tomorrow,” Bergeron said about the decision process of his return to the lineup. “I felt really good on the ice today and hopefully it stays throughout the day and tomorrow morning and we’ll go from there.”
There’s no question that the Bruins are a better team with Bergeron in the lineup. Without him on this three-game trip, the Black and Gold managed to go 2-1 and battled through some in-game adversity during wins in Columbus and Winnipeg.
Even with the positive outcome, the Bruins still have some kinks that need to be taken care of from getting pucks out of their defensive end and sustaining offensive zone time to getting off to better starts after allowing the first goal in each of the three games. Having Bergeron back will certainly help ease some of the concerning areas.
For all the concerns, the Bruins got some positive reinforcements in the form of Pastrnak’s four goals in three games along with the fourth line’s play and a shutdown third period in Winnipeg where young defenseman like Brandon Carlo and Robbie O’Gara stepped up in crunch time.
As frustrating as it was for Bergeron watching the games at home, Bergeron was encouraged at the team’s ability to overcome their deficits in Columbus and Winnipeg.
“The way they’ve battled, and you know, it’s not easy buildings to play in,” Bergeron said. “Winnipeg, they’re a fast team and they showed up there and they had a real bounce back game [after Toronto] and the first game same thing, they got back in that game and showed a lot of character. It was really great to see a lot of young players that were getting their feet wet at the same time and they did a good job of that. So I was really pleased with the way everyone showed up.”
Even with his recent setback and his appearance with Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey where every game was a playoff-like environment, Bergeron will be relied upon in every other capacity that’s needed such as the power play, penalty kill and late game situations if needed.
“I don’t think he’s been out long enough for that to be a setback,” Julien said about Bergeron’s injury. “Just watching him skate today in practice, he didn’t seem rusty, and he didn’t seem like he lost his momentum or whatever you want to call it. He seemed okay today as far as I was concerned.”
Fellow veteran Adam McQuaid, who also missed the first three games due to an upper body injury, joined Bergeron and the rest of his fellow teammates on Wednesday. The veteran skated alongside O’Gara as one of the four defensive pairs. While he’s closer to returning as well, Julien stated that McQuaid might be a few more days away before making his season debut.