Dougie Hamilton, Chris Kelly Cleared for Contact
The news came from Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien on Friday, January 24, following the team's practice at Ristuccia Arena.
The Bruins next head to Philadelphia to begin a two-game road trip, first facing off against the Flyers on Saturday afternoon, before traveling to New York to face the Islanders on Monday. Hamilton and Kelly are both making the trip.
Hamilton has missed four games out of the lineup recovering from a concussion, while Kelly has been sidelined for the past 20 games while rehabbing a broken right fibula (calf bone) he sustained back on December 7.
Now, it's a matter of the players being in game-shape, before jumping back into the lineup. For Kelly, that process could be a bit longer than for Hamilton, given the greater amount of time sidelined.
"Usually when they're cleared for contact, then it becomes a matter of us figuring out if they're ready to play, or if they need a little bit more practice time," said Julien.
"I think, if anything, Dougie, as far as game-shape, is probably closer because he's only missed maybe a week. But [Chris Kelly] been out for six weeks, so shape-wise, I think he's fine - it's going to be game-shape wise that's going to be a question mark here."
"So we've got to continue to get some battle drills with him, like you saw us do after practice, and that's the biggest thing for players. You can skate them all you want but what is tiring is when you get into those battles, so we'll see how he is."
Still, it's a positive step in the right direction for Kelly.
"He's been cleared, which is good, and to be honest with you, after he's been cleared, most of the decision comes back my way," said Julien.
Hamilton Recovers from Concussion
Hamilton has been skating for about six days in his recovery, and passed the baseline concussion test on Thursday. The injury marked the first concussion of his career, so he wasn't too sure about the symptoms at first, much like what happened with Daniel Paille in December.
The first couple of days are always the toughest, and that's when Hamilton experienced headaches and a whiplash feeling.
"Every day I felt better," said the blueliner. "I feel good now, that's the important thing, and just looking forward to getting back to playing."
Prior to missing five games due to the concussion, Hamilton missed 10 games in December with an MCL sprain.
"Frustrating, mostly," said Hamilton, of the past couple of months. "I think obviously you don't want to be injured, and just when I was getting back into the groove, you're hurt again."
He had a fairly seamless, confident transition back into the lineup after his first injury, and is hoping that proves true again following the concussion.
"Hopefully I can get back and get back into the routine and rhythm and everything like that, and just have fun again."
Kelly Getting Closer to Return
It's been a challenging month and a half for Chris Kelly, but it's no surprise that through it all, the alternate captain has remained positive. As he would say, what else can you do?
Kelly joined the team at practice for the first time on Friday, after skating on his own or with a few of the guys, for about a week. It took Kelly a challenging month of rehab to get to that point.
"It's been a little bit longer than I would have liked, but it's all part of the process of getting better, and it was a good step in the right direction," said Kelly.
"Injuries are all part of the game; it's how you handle them. I've been pretty positive throughout the whole thing and the training staff and myself have worked well together to get it to this point."
Julien was hoping Kelly would be back within the week. His return will not likely be against Philly, as he would benefit from at least another practice with contact.
"Conditioning I felt great and obviously you can never simulate the physical aspect of the game but I felt good out there," said Kelly.
He's been pushing himself, and his stride looks strong. It's only a matter of time.
"We'll see, just one day at a time," said Kelly. "Today was better than yesterday, so I hope tomorrow was better than today and we'll go from there."