Just think if Charlie McAvoy missed a Game 7 between the Bruins and the Blue Jackets. The Bruins would’ve really been in a tough spot in another do or die scenario.
Instead, McAvoy missed the Eastern Conference Final opener against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Bruins missed their talented third-year defenseman as a speedy Carolina bunch — led by Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin — provided fits through the first two periods.
The Bruins were in next man up mode without McAvoy. This wasn’t anything new. Bruce Cassidy’s squad thrived on that mentality when faced with injuries and suspensions to their roster.
Yet, for all their struggles against the Hurricanes, the Bruins found a way to earn a Game 1 win. Defenseman Steven Kampfer, filling in for the suspended McAvoy following his illegal check to Josh Anderson, put them in position for their come from behind win after firing postseason career goal No. 1.
Boston’s four-goal third period — sparked by a pair of power play tallies from Marcus Johansson and Patrice Bergeron — marked its first win of the postseason when trailing after two periods. The resilient Bruins, in another case of next man up, put themselves in the proverbial driver’s seat following the Game 1 victory.
“It was awesome. I don’t know, it’s nice to get a goal, get the lead early.” Kampfer said about his Game 1 tally. “But, you know, you’re just trying to jumpstart the team. And hopefully it keeps going.”
And now they’re closer to a full roster.
McAvoy rejoined his teammates at Warrior Ice Arena for Saturday’s practice. He’ll take his usual spot on Boston’s top defensive pair with Zdeno Chara for Game 2 on Mother’s Day afternoon. Kampfer, who did an admirable job, will make his way back to Level 9 following his second career playoff game.
“I can’t wait. I’m very excited,” McAvoy told reporters in Brighton on Saturday. “It happens to be the conference finals and I’m looking to make an impact anyway I can and I’m just really excited for the opportunity.”
That’s not all. Noel Acciari — a possibility for Game 3 Tuesday in Raleigh — also returned to practice in a red no-contact sweater after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury. And Kevan Miller, who hasn’t skated at all since sustaining a lower-body ailment late in the regular season, isn’t sporting a leg brace any longer according to James Murphy.
The Bruins came away with a split in their first two games against the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets. They’d like nothing more than to buck that trend with McAvoy’s return in Game 2.
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