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    A month ago, Don Sweeney searched for a needed physical upgrade in the bottom six. On Deadline Day, the ninth-year Boston Bruins general manager filled the need after acquiring Pat Maroon, a proven checking-line winger with a lengthy championship resume.

    But the Bruins would have to wait for Maroon to recover fully from back surgery.

    Maroon began skating on his own shortly after arriving from Minnesota. Yet, the three-time Stanley Cup champion remained eager to join his teammates for a full skate.

    While Maroon still has a little ways to go before making his Bruins debut, the St. Louis native finally touched the ice with his new teammates for the first time in a regular practice sweater at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday.

    “I kind of felt lonely skating by myself,” Maroon recalled. “Feels good to be back with the guys, do some battle drills, and kind of get back up to speed with those guys. I’m certainly excited to feel a part of it. Excited to be back.

    “I’m close. So it’s a good sign when you’re practicing with the team.”

    Maroon checked his first box on Monday, filling in for David Pastrnak (maintenance) on Boston’s second line next to Pavel Zacha and Danton Heinen.

    Despite his top-six stint on Monday, Jim Montgomery and the coaching staff will likely slot Maroon in a third or fourth-line role. The 35-year-old thrived in bottom-six duty during his three consecutive Cup victories with St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

    Until then, Maroon still has a few items left on his to-do list before his impending return.

    “He is making the steps to get closer,” Montgomery said. “You know when he first got here, we said week to week, and we knew it was going to be a couple of weeks. Now we really know that it is week to week. And as he gets more of the steps and milestones, it will become day-to-day.”

    “I can’t say definitively yes, but it’s looking that way.”

    Ideally, the Bruins want Maroon to appear in a few games before the playoffs. But in Maroon’s case, a cautious approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    “You know, guys that are veteran players that have played a lot of playoff gams that know how to win, you would like them to have games. But it’s not necessary,” Montgomery said about the pros and cons of Maroon returning before the postseason. “They know what it takes to win. They know their role; they relish their role; they understand how to manage games, and it’s a big reason why we picked him up.”

    The ever-competitive Maroon remains eager to return.

    Maroon’s knack for instant energy would give the Bruins a needed element to the recent rotating door on the bottom six. Given the string of inconsistent outings from James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Lauko, Maroon could waste little time complimenting Boston’s third or fourth line with his physical presence along the walls and net-front area.

    For now, the patient and steady approach continues.

    “I think that’s the end goal is to play a couple of games before the playoffs,” Maroon said. “They’ve been really good with me. I can’t thank the staff enough here. They’ve been really patient with me, doing all the right things to make sure I’m 100 percent and back to where I finished off. So, they’ve been really good. They have a plan for me, and we’re just going to continue sticking with that and progress each day.”

    The Bruins end their regular season on April 16. They’d like to have Maroon back during their tough year-end stretch, with five of their final seven tilts coming against current playoff teams.

    Maroon won’t be available this week according to Montgomery, but he could accompany the team as they close out their six-game road trip in Nashville and Carolina. But after watching the Bruins endure through tight-checking battles against desperate squads, Maroon yearns for the opportunity to fully acquaint himself with his new squad.

    “Trust me. I’m really excited,” Maroon said. “I can’t wait, especially watching the Florida and Tampa game. It just makes you want to go out there and battle with the boys and go out there. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    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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