Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 18: Charlie McAvoy #73 of the Boston Bruins wears a ceremonial patch during the second period in honor of former Boston Bruins player Willie O'Ree as he has his No. 22 jersey retired prior to the game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on January 18, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

  • Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery tried pulling a fast one on the assembled media following Wednesday’s practice when he would not confirm nor deny Charlie McAvoy’s potential return to the lineup.

    But a grinning Montgomery said it all before he even said a word following Thursday’s optional morning skate.

    “Your observations yesterday were accurate,” Montgomery said. “He’s checked all the boxes, and Charlie McAvoy will be in the lineup tonight.”

    On the shelf for the first 13 games of the season as he continued his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery (McAvoy suffered the injury in Game 6 of the team’s 2022 first-round series loss to the Hurricanes), a beaming McAvoy had a terrible poker face Wednesday when it came to downplaying his availability for tonight’s game.

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  • McAvoy’s return to action will come with a slight change from what you saw on Wednesday, however, as No. 73 will begin his night opposite Matt Grzelcyk on the Black and Gold’s top pairing.

    That’s a change from Wednesday’s skate with McAvoy opposite Hampus Lindholm for an obvious super-pairing, and comes with Mongomery outright admitting that there will be some in-game tinkering.

    Part of that comes back to the Bruins wanting to ‘ease’ McAvoy back in (they expect him to play at least 20 minutes tonight), but the Bruins also really like what they’ve seen from their most recent de facto top pairing with Connor Clifton with Lindholm.

    “We really like the Lindholm-Clifton pairing,” Montgomery admitted. “And we’re very lucky that we can put [Brandon] Carlo in a situation where he can pair up with [Jakub] Zboril and have three really good pairs.”

  • LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 03: Charlie McAvoy #73 of the Boston Bruins skates with the puck against Vegas Golden Knights in the first period of their game at T-Mobile Arena on March 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Bruins defeated the Golden Knights 5-2. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 03: Charlie McAvoy #73 of the Boston Bruins skates with the puck against Vegas Golden Knights in the first period of their game at T-Mobile Arena on March 03, 2022. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • Montgomery has repeatedly tempered his own excitement when it comes to unleashing McAvoy in a system that’s been more than kind to any defenseman with a lick of offensive pop.

    But now that McAvoy is ready to go, Montgomery is ecstatic to see what he can do.

    “Just how he impacts the game in all three zones, it doesn’t seem like he takes a second off,” Montgomery said of McAvoy’s greatest strength. “He’s pressuring pucks, he’s ending plays, he’s hitting someone. Or he’s taking the puck from the breakout, through the neutral zone, kicking it out, driving the net, and getting a chance for driving [towards] the net.”

    McAvoy is coming off a 2021-22 campaign that included a career-high in goals (10), assists (46), points (56), plus-minus (plus-31), and time on ice (24:40), and finished fourth in the Norris Trophy voting.