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Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy nears return: What it means for lineup, cap and Mike Reilly

Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy nears return: What it means for lineup, cap and Mike Reilly

BOSTON – Wednesday at Warrior Ice Arena, Charlie McAvoy took his usual place in the No. 1 pairing alongside Hampus Lindholm. After the session, McAvoy took to center ice to lead the team in the post-practice stretch. He hugged several of his teammates before leaving the ice.

These steps reflected the same Brad Marchand took on October 26, a day before the season debut against the red wings. Marchand also practiced in his usual front line position and led the stretch. At the time, coach Jim Montgomery said that I didn’t expect Marchand to play the next day.

On this occasion, Montgomery was more careful with his words.

“I’m not going to confirm or deny,” Montgomery said when asked if McAvoy would play against him flames Thursday. “Because there are boxes left to tick.”

McAvoy took his first full contact practice on October 31. He accompanied the team on its three-game swing in Pittsburgh, New York and Toronto. Wednesday’s tune-up may have been the last on-ice progression McAvoy required before being cleared to play. If McAvoy follows Marchand’s pattern and feels no ill effects from practice, he could be declared fit to go Thursday morning.

“Internally, we feel good where we are,” McAvoy said when asked what else he needs to do before the clearance. “Those are conversations we’re having. As far as check marks and things like that, I’ll just say we feel really good about where we’re at. Exciting.”

The 11-2-0 Bruins will be better in all areas with McAvoy back. The 24-year-old is a game-changing defenseman with his skating, physicality, instinctive play and hockey sense.

McAvoy hurt his right shoulder in Game 6 of last year’s opening round Carolina. He underwent surgery on June 3. He was initially expected to miss six months.

McAvoy sped up his timeline through his own work and with the assistance of the team’s medical staff. Marchand and Matt Grzelcyk also came back earlier than expected. Montgomery said the porter Jeremy Swayman it is also a few days ahead of schedule. Swayman has yet to skate after appearing to injure his left knee against Pittsburgh on November 1. Montgomery has Swayman listed as week-to-week.

Scott Waugh, manager of player rehabilitation, has overseen the players’ recovery.

“I tip my hat to our medical staff, Scott Waugh and our athletic training staff here for the job they’ve done,” Montgomery said. “Not only with him, but with Marchand already back and Grzelcyk. A lot of players ahead of schedule.”

Still, there may be caution in rushing. McAvoy has had some bumps in practice. But nothing he has absorbed so far will compare to, say, Milan Lucic giving him an ice race on Thursday.

“You do your best, and that’s something we’re working on right now, continuing to do, is getting into battles and getting up sticks hard, making guys try to pick you off,” McAvoy said. “Taking that contact and trying to feel good, that’s a big thing. Especially as a defense — feeling confident when you’re coming back to pucks that no matter what position you’re in, you’re going to be able to make a play. You’re not going to worry about that contact. It’s hard to mimic the game. It really is. But I think we did a good job of trying.”

The Bruins placed Mike Reilly on waivers Wednesday for the purpose of an AHL assignment. Reilly practiced with an extra partner Anton Stralman. Any team can claim Reilly before Thursday’s 2 p.m. deadline. He is signed for $3 million annually through 2024.

Reilly was previously assigned to the AHL on October 27. It was a paper transaction, and never reported to Providence. Reilly has played the last three matches at No. 3 pairing.

If the Bruins assign Reilly and activate McAvoy on Thursday, they will be left with an extra defenseman in Stralman. Derek Forbort remains on injured reserve after undergoing surgery on his right middle finger on Nov. 3. The defender was expected to miss four to six weeks from the time of the procedure. Forbort was at the practice facility Wednesday with an ice pack taped to his finger. The Bruins may have to move him ($3 million average annual value) to long-term injured reserve to accommodate McAvoy’s $9.5 million AAV. If so, Forbort could not play until November 29 against Tampa Bay.

It remains to be seen how Montgomery will deploy McAvoy. He has said he wants to see the right-shot defenseman skate with and without Lindholm. By splitting the two, Montgomery could extend his minutes-eating abilities.

“We’re very deep down with options of who we can use with who,” Montgomery said.

Lindholm is averaging a team-high 24:13 of ice time per game. McAvoy averaged 24:38 of game time per appearance last year.

“(Lindholm) has been playing incredible hockey, as well as every defenseman, every defenseman that’s come in,” McAvoy said. “You don’t have the start we’ve had collectively as a group without everyone pulling the strings. So seeing these guys every night has been amazing. Lindy certainly looked amazing. He played amazing.”

Grzelcyk practiced with Brandon Carlo in pairing No. 3 on Wednesday. Jakub Zboril i Connor Clifton they were the third duet.

The Bruins didn’t practice the power play. McAvoy could rejoin the No. 1 unit. The Bruins used five forwards against the the blue ones in Monday’s 3-1 win.

(Top photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)





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