David Pastrnak encountered a handful of injuries during his first six seasons in Boston. The last time he missed significant action was in 2018-19, where a thumb injury following a team event forced him to the sidelines for over a month.
Pastrnak remained healthy during the regular season, where he netted a career-high 48 goals in 70 games. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, thus putting a halt on league activities until the 24-team postseason bubble in August.
Upon returning home from their second-round exit at the hands of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, Pastrnak went under the knife for the first time in his career. The doctors put a timeline for a mid-February return after a successful operation on Pastrnak’s right hip.
The recovery period, at the height of the ongoing coronavirus period, forced Pastrnak to alter his usual off-season routine.
“I’m a very outgoing person, and the first two months were really hard. I obviously couldn’t do anything,” Pastrnak said during his first Zoom call with the media this season. “I had to follow a program and really outwork myself every single week step-by-step. That was really difficult for me. I had to change my preparation for the season.”
Pastrnak usually includes soccer and other sporting ventures in his off-season regimen. The two-month recovery and the seasonal transition from fall forced Pastrnak to change things up.
Yet, Pastrnak kept working. In the process, the dynamic 24-year-old winger learned more about his functional abilities within his 6-foot, 194-lb. frame.
“I always look on the positive side, and I got to know my body really, really well. Pastrnak said. “I haven’t gone through something like this through my whole career. Obviously, it’s something new. I’m now learning more about my body.”
The recovery came quicker than expected.
With an improved understanding of his body, Pastrnak began practicing last week in a red no-contact sweater. On Monday, he made the transition to full participant — wearing a white jersey — taking contact for the first time since Game 5 of the Tampa series back on Aug. 31. Now he’s another step toward making his season debut.
“Now it’s about getting the timing back with my first contact day today,” Pastrnak said. “It’s not fun getting hit for the first time after four months, so obviously, I have to get used to that.”
“It’s been a long road. I’m obviously itching to get back out there,” the crafty Czech playmaker added. “Today was a good day to practice with the boys. I’m really excited, and hopefully, there will be more good days like today.”
Pastrnak alternated shifts with Jack Studnicka on the second line with David Krejci and Brett Ritchie in his first day back at Warrior Ice Arena. He’ll return at his usual spot on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron — given a maintenance day Monday — when he enters the lineup.
The Bruins won’t rush Pastrnak back. He’ll remain a spectator when the Bruins host the Penguins for their next pair of games on Tuesday and Thursday. Cassidy expects Pastrnak to travel on the team’s upcoming four-game road trip beginning Saturday against former teammate Zdeno Chara and the Washington Capitals.
Through his tough journey, Pastrnak didn’t regret anything. Now he’s pain-free and eager to contribute again.
“I’m so happy I’ve done it. It’s wonderful that I’m skating on the ice pain-free. I’m excited about coming back and joining the guys — being around them every day — and to help the team win. Obviously, I had a decision to make in the off-season, and I’m happy to have done it. And as I said, skating pain-free now is wonderful.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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