Boston Bruins

  • Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk returned to the the Bruins ahead of schedule. Top-line winger Brad Marchand retuned to action a good five weeks ahead of schedule.

    And now, Norris-contending defenseman Charlie McAvoy is looking to join the club, and more importantly join a Bruins team that’s grabbed 16 of a possible 18 points out of the gate this season.

    After getting a full weekend off from the rink, the Bruins returned to the practice rink Monday morning, and with No. 73 on the ice in a regular black, full-contact jersey. That is, of course, a highly noticeable change from the non-contact jersey McAvoy has donned exclusively since rejoining the team.

  • 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)

    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. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

  • In addition to no longer hearing the chirps from his teammates about that maroon jersey, McAvoy’s comfort with Monday came with contact being the next step forward in his recovery.

    “Just to go from non-contact to contact,” McAvoy said of what today meant. “Obviously, our practices are very respectful. Nobody really hits anyway as far as contact really goes. But just to get leaned on a little bit in the corner — and making some plays, doing 3-on-3, 5-on-5 stuff — it was just really fun to get back and play hockey.”

    To McAvoy’s point, the Bruins weren’t ramming McAvoy, who underwent shoulder surgery in May, through the boards on Day 1. They were instead helping McAvoy check another box on the ol’ checklist towards a return to action.

    “He’s ahead of schedule,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said following practice. “He’s ahead of December 1st. But he’s just starting in his progression, like we have our internal timeline [and] we’re hopeful [he will return] before November 24, to be honest. But he’s gotta check boxes as we continue to here and he’s just starting.

    “Today is the first day where he had a little bit of contact.”

    This is going to be a work in progress of sorts for the Bruins, as they’ll need to up McAvoy’s reps when it comes to the physicality and nastiness of what awaits him in a game, and the B’s seem to have a plan for that.

    “Today was day one of him absorbing a little bit of contact, [so] we’ll see how he feels tomorrow after that, right?” Montgomery said. “That’s the first box to get checked in his return to play. He’s been on a long return to play here off the ice, but on the ice, as he gets comfortable with that, then we’re gonna start leaning on him in these pregame skates, we’ll do some one-on-one battle drills with him and the other players that aren’t playing.”

  • 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)

  • The good news is that time is on McAvoy and the B’s side. And for a multitude of reasons.

    After opening the season with nine games in 17 days, the Bruins will have a bit more of a relaxing (or human, at the very least) pace in November, with 13 games in 29 days in the month of November beginning tomorrow in Pittsburgh. That means more practice time, and more opportunities to run through drills and adjustments that have left McAvoy a little wide-eyed as he adjusts to the tweaks and changes under Montgomery and assistant coach John Gruden.

    “We’re just excited that he’s on the ice and he’s going to start getting repetitions of how we want to play because it’s a little bit different,” Montgomery offered. “You can tell because he’s a little bit ‘deer in the headlights’ at the beginning of practice. Everybody else knows what we’re doing just by the name of drills and what we’re doing and he’s looking and he watches the first couple of reps before he goes.”

    The Black and Gold’s early success has also made it easier on McAvoy when it comes to rushing things.

    “We’re in a fortunate spot for sure,” McAvoy said. “I think regardless of the position that we’d be in, obviously that’s a hypothetical, but I think everybody is very respectful of the timeline. You really don’t have a choice but to be patient with something like this. It’s the support from everybody and just the conversations every day of reminding you to stay patient and the reminding you of the progress from where we were when we started to where we are now.”

  • While there’s internal hope that McAvoy will be back before Nov. 24, McAvoy is not putting any dates on it.

    He’s instead focused on checking those boxes.

    And the Bruins, who have already ruled out McAvoy for the upcoming three-game road trip, are slowly integrating McAvoy back into their team activities. Which means a lot to McAvoy after what’s been an agonizing five months.

    “You do feel isolated from the group [during rehab],” McAvoy, who started his camp working with Grzelcyk and Marchand, admitted. “I think our group is very special, though, so guys are always checking up on you, asking you how you’re doing, which to me means a lot that everybody’s conscious about what I’m going through, what they’re going through. We’re on different wavelengths a little bit.

    “But to feel that support from them and to hear their cheers as you’re going through this process, it’s always encouraging and wants you to get back even faster so everything’s looking good right now.”