Charlie McAvoy’s progress from off-season shoulder surgery continued with another significant step during Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
On the very first line rush, McAvoy skated with Hampus Lindholm on the top defensive pairing. The sixth-year defenseman never altered shifts with any of the other defensemen in his top pairing role during the hour-long training session.
Jim Montgomery provided another encouraging report on McAvoy’s status during Tuesday’s optional skate. McAvoy, indeed, check-marked more items on Wednesday, ending his morning leading the post-practice stretch at center ice.
“McAvoy is checking a lot of boxes,” Montgomery said following Wednesday’s practice in Brighton. “He’s getting close.”
The Bruins embarked on a surprising early-season run, given their trio of injuries to McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk (shoulder) and Brad Marchand (both hips) to start the year. They’ve also encountered their share of in-season injuries, including recent ailments to Derek Forbort (upper body) and Jeremy Swayman (lower body).
Through it all, the Bruins sit at 11-2 through 13 games. They enter Wednesday tied for the highest goals for (51) and have allowed the fourth fewest tallies (31) of the 32 NHL squads.
Come Thursday, the East-leading Bruins may have another reinforcement as they welcome the Calgary Flames to TD Garden. But neither McAvoy nor Montgomery provided confirmation.
“Doing good. We’re continuing to stack these boxes up, McAvoy said. “We feel good where we are and just going one day at a time.”
“I’m not going to confirm nor deny that because there’s a lot of boxes that need to be checked,” Montgomery said.
If the timing seems surprising, well, it is.
Boston’s medical staff initially scheduled McAvoy for an early-December return. But like Marchand’s recovery, McAvoy appears ahead of schedule to make his first appearance since Game 7 of the B’s first-round series with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“It’s a testament to everyone really from within,” McAvoy said of the speedy recovery. “The docs, the trainers, and everyone were working hard to get back early, and we’re getting close.”
“He’ll be playing within a week, I think,” Montgomery added.
Montgomery said he’ll likely keep McAvoy in 5v5 situations as they evaluate his returning workload. The Bruins envision McAvoy operating the right side in a familiar spot next to Lindholm or Grzelcyk.
The B’s back end has thrived without McAvoy. They’ve witnessed Lindholm elevate his game to another level as the team’s workhorse in McAvoy’s absence. They’ll have an extended look with McAvoy and Lindholm beyond their brief time together last season when the latter saw time on the shelf to injury following his trade deadline arrival from Anaheim.
“He’s been playing awesome hockey as well as all the defensemen and everyone, really. You don’t have the start that we have without everyone collectively pulling the rope. To watch these guys every night has been amazing,” McAvoy said of Lindholm and company.
“Lindy certainly has looked incredible. He’s been playing amazing. It’s been really fun to watch… as have other guys too. I think it’s important that everybody takes a share of where we’re at right now. If I do get to play with Lindy, that will be a blast. He’s a hell of a defenseman, and he’ll definitely make my life easy.”
Boston’s crop of blue-liners provided needed depth without McAvoy. His return will make the Bruins an even more formidable bunch.
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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