There is still no set timetable as to when you might see No. 73 back out on the ice for the Black and Gold.
But, after missing the last 19 games due to a concussion, Charlie McAvoy’s rehab efforts cleared another major hurdle on Monday morning.
After skating in a red, non-contact jersey for most of last week, the 20-year-old defenseman took part in a full practice at Warrior Ice Arena — the first time that he’s been able to go through an entire morning skate since suiting up in his final game on Oct. 18 against the Oilers.
McAvoy still lists his status going forward as “day to day,” but Bruce Cassidy noted that the young blue liner will travel with the club down to Florida later today and continue to practice with the team, barring any setbacks.
“Actually looked pretty good,” Cassidy said of McAvoy’s showing on Monday. “I guess for him, he’s going to have to get used to bodies around him and try to simulate some of that in practice. Some of the five-on-five drills will help that. … It’s good news, it’s probably the last step, when he’s comfortable with contact and bodies around him.”
McAvoy’s return can’t come soon enough for a Bruins club still looking to pick up the pieces after losing key cogs like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron to injury.
While a patchwork D corps and a dominant rotation in net between Tuukka Rask (.927 save percentage in November) and Jaroslav Halak (.928 save percentage in November) has kept Boston afloat in its own zone (Second in NHL in goals allowed per game at 2.46), the Black and Gold are in desperate need of a puck carrier to push them into the offensive zone — something that McAvoy has built a track record of during his short time up in the NHL.
Any added spark of offense will be a welcome addition to the Bruins, who have averaged 1.8 goals per game in their last eight matchups — despite holding an edge in attempts and other possession metrics against a majority of their opponents.
“I think he can be a one-man breakout,” Cassidy said of McAvoy’s efforts on the ice. “Very effective of getting to the net, getting out of the middle of the ice. Give us a few cleaner entries, rushes. Neutral zone, he’s pretty good at hitting that seam when it’s there, getting the forwards going with some easier attacks.
“I think we miss that part of his game the most. I think the shutdown part is good as well, but we’ve put some guys in the lineup that have handled that part of it ok. It’s the breakouts and the first-pass execution that I think is his bread and butter.”
The hope is there for a return in short order for McAvoy, especially if he continues to string a number of good practices together.
However, for a player currently going through the hurdles of his first ever concussion, he knows that the process could slow down as he works with the team’s medical staff in order to point out any concerning habits.
“Going through this my first time, there's certain things I don’t know about, like as far as when you come back, what happens if you do feel something bad. Is it actually a symptom or just anxiety? Things like that. It’s a heck of an injury when you start playing around with your brain.
“But things went well today so I’m very happy. ... I miss just being on the plane and just being around them every day. I’m excited to get out of here, get out of Boston for a little bit and get on the road with these guys.”
Even with the strides he’s made over the past week, McAvoy made sure to keep things in perspective. Unlike a broken bone or sprain, there’s no physical threshold or test he needs to pass before getting cleared to return.
With tilts coming up against the Lighting and Maple Leafs later this week, Boston could certainly a game changer like McAvoy back on the ice. But patience takes priority over necessity in this case, and for good reason.
“I don’t think it’s anything specific where I’m like, ‘Ok, if I can stop (Brad Marchand) in a one on one, I’m probably good to go,'" McAvoy said. "It’s really just stringing along a number of days and then getting to a point where in my head, I’m very confident to say, ‘Ok, let’s go. I feel like I’m ready to play, I’m ready to go out there and help the team.’
“I don’t want to come back and I’m in a position where I’m nervous to get hit. You can’t play like that. So I need to be completely prepared and ready to go out and be a pivotal part of the team in order to help us win. I feel like that day is close.”