WILMINGTON, MA - The Bruins were back to work on Thursday morning at Ristuccia Arena, after two days off amidst a rare four days hiatus from game action.
There were also welcome additions to practice.
Chris Kelly, who has been skating for a few weeks now, joined the Bruins at practice for the first time since suffering a broken right fibula back on December 7 against Pittsburgh. He skated in the third line gray jersey, along with Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson and Ryan Spooner.
"He's going to make the trip," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien following the skate. The Bruins head to Philadelphia on Friday, in advance of their two-game road trip against the Flyers on Saturday and the New York Islanders on Monday.
"I don't know when he's going to be back. Hopefully, within the week," said Julien, of any timetable on his return. "He's been cleared to practice. Today wasn't full contact for him but I think he's going to progress hopefully quickly and we'll see where he is by that time."
As for where Kelly would slot back into the lineup, Julien stayed along the mantra of crossing that bridge when he comes to it.
"He's going to make the road trip with us. When is he going to play? When I'm told that he's been cleared, and then when that comes, we'll make that decision," he said.
The Bruins have had to fill the void of Kelly's absence on the ice, but there are many intangibles he brings off the ice that are irreplaceable.
When Julien was asked which aspect of Kelly's game he missed the most - leadership, work in all three zones, etc. - the bench boss opted for another response. "All of the above?" he suggested.
"I think when you look at his experience, faceoffs, good two-way player, reliable, and, you know, his leadership I think has been missed," said Julien. "But the other guys have stepped in and I think have done a pretty good job."
Along with Kelly, Dougie Hamilton rejoined the group for practice on Thursday, after missing four games in recovery from a concussion. He too had been skating apart from the team in his recovery.
As of Thursday, Julien deemed the defenseman a possibility for traveling with the team on their road trip to Philadelphia and New York.
"Possibly, since he's practicing with us but I don't know whether he'll be cleared to play," said Julien, of Hamilton's status. "Still very light contact right now, not allowed to have the heavy contact. He can go in there and kind of battle, but hasn't been cleared yet."
While Kelly and Hamilton have taken visible strides forward, Adam McQuaid's leg injury is harder to judge. The blueliner remains out "day-to-day."
"His injury is an injury that's really hard to assess," said Julien. "That's why I'm giving you that day-to-day thing, because nobody, even medical staff, has been able to pinpoint a time, so it's day-to-day. It depends how he heals and could be shorter, could be longer, we've just got to go about it on a day-to-day situation."
In December, the influx of injuries and players out of the lineup may have caught the Bruins off guard, in terms of quantity and timing.
But now, towards the end of January, with players like Kelly missing sustained time and Dennis Seidenberg out for the season, the Bruins (like every other NHL team) have learned to solider on.
It's hasn't been easy, but the Black & Gold picked up five out of six points in the most recent games against Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles by executing their "team game" and showcasing a better all-around defensive effort.
Kelly and Hamilton would be welcome additions to the lineup, no doubt, but the emphasis for the Bruins remains on building consistency, no matter who suits up for game action.
"[We're] slowly getting back to our regular lineup I guess and I think right now, our guys are really focused on our team as it is, and just going out there every game, competing," said Julien.
"And if those guys come back, it's great. And if not, then we've just got to keep doing the job we've been doing there in the last three games."
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