David Pastrnak readies for return – will Bruins’ winger be up to speed ahead of the playoffs?

Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

David Pastrnak may be able to practice with his Bruins teammates and rocket home one-timers from his office at the left circle without many limitations, but the remnants from the winger’s unexpected thumb surgery five weeks ago are likely to remain with him for most of the 2018-19 season.

An unlucky fall after a sponsorship dinner back on Feb. 10 has kept Pastrnak out of the lineup for the last 16 games. The dynamic forward has been reduced to skating ahead of Bruins’ practices for the past couple of weeks and shaking the rust off of his puck-handling skills with a modified splint under his glove.

That splint isn’t getting removed any time soon for Pastrnak, but that doesn’t mean the forward isn’t going to be stuck on the shelf for much longer. For the first time in over a month, Pastrnak has been tabbed as a game-time decision for a contest, with Bruce Cassidy noting on Monday the forward will travel with the team on its upcoming four-game road trip and has a chance to play on Tuesday against the Islanders.

“Felt great,” Cassidy said of Pastrnak. “So he's traveling with us, obviously. Could play tomorrow, as early as tomorrow. Not saying he will. But he'll make that decision in conjunction with the medical staff as early as tomorrow after the morning skate, so I would assume he would be a game-time decision. I suspect if he doesn't play tomorrow, then Thursday (against Devils) would be a real good day."

For Pastrnak, finding that light at the end of the tunnel is a welcome development after weeks of mundane work on the ice — all due to an off-ice injury.

“I was at the dinner and then I was on my way to the car and slipped,” Pastrnak said of his injury. “It was unfortunate that I got hurt from it. I was really upset. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Four weeks in the gym — skating with no stick. These things happen in life and I just try to take it as an advantage and get better as a player.”

Somehow, the Bruins have managed to generate more offense (3.3 goals per game in last 16 games) since Pastrnak landed on the shelf (2.88 goals per game through Feb. 10), but Pastrnak’s impact on this club, especially in the O-zone, can’t be understated.

Already a cheat code on the power play thanks to his patented one-timer, Pastrnak can also more than hold his own during 5v5 play, an area that Boston has largely labored in this season. When he went down with his injury, Pastrnak was out on the ice for 44.2 percent of all of Boston’s goals scored at 5v5 play.

Still, even Pastrnak was quick to admit that he likely won’t hit the ground running once he’s eventually given the green light, especially with all of the rust that he will need to shake off and the adjustment to the splint.