McAvoy cleared for contact, not ruled out for Saturday
The Boston Bruins have been hit hard by the injury bug in the last week, but they may have a healthy body at their disposal for their pivotal showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night at TD Garden.
After three days of light skating with team trainers, standout rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy joined the rest of his teammates during the B’s optional morning skate Thursday at Warrior Ice Arena. The Calder Trophy candidate dawned a red non-contact jersey and was on the ice for nearly an hour.
Just a little over a week removed from his heart procedure and subsuqent recovery, McAvoy’s session marked a major step forward.
“I was really excited about that,” McAvoy said about returning to full team on-ice activities. “I obviously skated on my own a couple of times, but to get back out there and pass the puck with somebody and to kind of engage in high-paced drills and stuff like that was a good day.”
McAvoy, along with fellow injured teammates Noel Acciari (lower-body) and Anders Bjork (upper-body) are ruled out for the Bruins inter-conference matchup with the St. Louis Blues Thursday night. Brad Marchand will join the injured trio on Level 9 as he serves the third game of his five-game suspension.
But things are certainly looking up for the former Boston University blueliner.
Barring a relapse, the ex-Terrier will have a full practice under his belt on Friday marking another big step toward returning to the Bruins lineup. That return could come as early as Saturday in Boston’s crucial showdown with the Maple Leafs — the first of two in February agaisnt their Original Six rivals.
“It’s obviously a big step in the process,” McAvoy said. “To be able to get back out there and to be able to exert myself and not really have to monitor where I’m at and just to play was good. It was a good day to get the heart rate up and I feel good.”
“He’s getting closer,” head coach Bruce Cassidy assessed on McAvoy’s status. “I’m not going to rule him out for Saturday [against Toronto] and say he’s in, but let’s get a good practice tomorrow and re-evaluate, but he’s definitely out tonight.”
Coming back from a surgery or a procedure is a difficult task for an athlete. It’s even tougher when that surgery or procedure is more health-related and less about fixing an injury sustained on the ice.
The good thing for McAvoy is he only missed a week of skating following his heart procedure. By Monday he was back lacing up the skates, and three days later he was an active participant.
Friday’s on-ice session will be another test for McAvoy as he’ll engage in physical activity for the first time since the Bruins win over the Habs in Montreal on Jan. 20. For now, he’s happy being in good spirits and staying active in his quest toward returning to the lineup.
“I didn’t really feel too rusty, which is a luxury for someone young,” McAvoy added. “So to miss that little amount of time and to get back out there and still feel good…I’m lucky for that.”
The Bruins are also lucky to have Charlie McAvoy at their disposal. They’ll certainly be happy when he makes his eventual return to game action.