For the first time since the final weeks of the preseason, attendance at Warrior Ice Arena was close to perfect for Bruins' practice.
After missing over a month due to a rib/sternoclavicular injury and MCL injury, both Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara were back out on the ice with the rest of the club — with Kevan Miller joining the pair just three weeks removed from taking a puck to the throat.
While both Bergeron and Miller were cleared for full contact, Chara was not — with the 6-foot-9 defenseman only practicing without a red, non-contact sweater because the Bruins did not have a spare that fit him.
Joining Chara in the non-contact category were Jake DeBrusk and Urho Vaakanainen — with both skaters still on the shelf while recovering from concussions.
Even though Bergeron and Miller were able to get through the whole gauntlet of contact drills on Wednesday, no set timeline has been established for their return, although it seems like both veterans will be back in the fold sooner rather than later.
“Bergy skated in a full contact (sweater). Feeling better,” Bruce Cassidy said. Don’t have a definitive timeline, but I don’t think he’ll play (Thursday). He’s progressed well. Z didn’t have a red (jersey) on but should have. .... So he’s not playing tomorrow but again, felt good. Vaak was in red, obviously. DeBrusk, so they are progressing through their concussion protocol. Kevan Miller, as you know, cleared for contact but not cleared to play until next week. His is a little more definitive because of the type of injury. “
Since Chara and Bergeron went down with injuries in consecutive matchups on Nov. 14 and 16, the Bruins have managed to stay afloat with a record of 8-6-1 over the next month. But there’s no questioning the impact that key cogs like No. 37 and No. 33 will bring to a club that has not been at full strength for the entire season.
"I don’t necessarily have the last word or the last decision on that, but I’m definitely going to speak with doctors and their medical staff and coaches to talk about it, Bergeron said of his expected return. "But you know, like I said, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later.”
As for how the rest of the roster shuffles to accommodate the eventual return of a pair of top-six forwards and two starting defensemen? Well, that’s the next thing for Cassidy and his staff to tackle.