All season long, Bruce Cassidy has tabbed Boston’s overabundance of NHL-ready defensemen on the roster as a “luxury” rather than an inconvenience.
Indeed, it’s a good problem to have when your club has seven or eight talented blue liners for six starting spots, although the quandary hasn’t presented much of an issue to Cassidy and his staff so far — with injuries preventing Boston from rolling out its full roster for the first 44 games of the 2018-19 campaign.
Starting with Torey Krug’s ankle injury that he suffered in the postseason and compounded by injuries to Charlie McAvoy (concussion) and Kevan Miller (broken hand) later in October, a source of strength for Boston divulged into a patchwork unit come November — with youngsters like Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton routinely logging 20-plus minutes of ice time.
Slowly but surely, Boston’s blue line started to take shape in the later weeks of December, with Charlie McAvoy standing as the final piece waiting to return after missing the past seven games due to a foot infection.
With the 21-year-old skater practicing without restrictions for the past three days — it seems as though McAvoy is in line to rejoin his teammates for Saturday’s crucial road matchup against the Maple Leafs.
It’s a great development for the Bruins, who will benefit from the 21-year-old defenseman’s “one-man breakout” abilities against a Leafs club with plenty of firepower of its own — and an overdue headache for Boston’s bench boss.
“It’s trending that way,” Cassidy said of McAvoy’s potential return on Saturday. “We’ll officially announce tomorrow. Let’s get through pregame skate, it may be an optional. Then the obvious question is who comes out. Until he declares himself in, I don’t want to go down that road. Today, we practiced a certain way, so you can probably draw your own conclusions.”
Based on Friday’s pairings during practice, it would appear that John Moore would be the odd man out — with the veteran D-man skating with Steven Kampfer, who has not suited up in a game since Dec. 23 since both Zdeno Chara and Miller were cleared from their respective ailments.
McAvoy returned to his usual top-pairing spot alongside Chara, while both Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo were reunited on Boston’s second pairing. Both Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller remained together to round out the likely starting group for Saturday’s game.
However, Cassidy did not explicitly state that Moore would be the one sitting for Saturday if McAvoy is good to go, but did narrow it down to one of the club’s left-shot defensemen.