With Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy practicing and traveling with the team these days, a return to game action is coming for the team’s No. 1 defenseman.
McAvoy was skating in a top pairing with Hampus Lindholm at Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of Thursday’s home game vs. the Calgary Flames.
Charlie McAvoy taking first shift with Lindholm
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After practice he took the center ice position during the team stretch, just as Brad Marchand did before his surprise return to the lineup at the end of last month. Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said on Tuesday that the 24-year-old defenseman has “checked some of the boxes, but not all of them” in a return to the lineup that’s got everybody involved with the Black and Gold jacked up about his imminent arrival.
“He has checked more boxes, but he hasn’t checked them all yet,” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery, when asked if the defenseman might return to game action this week. “We’re very fortunate. We don’t even have McAvoy and we have a deep, deep D-corps even though we don’t have McAvoy and Derek Forbort that is playing really well. So we can go down to five [defensemen] to help us try and win a game.”
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Montgomery said Forbort is at least three weeks away after surgery on his right middle finger after blocking a shot last week.
One would suspect that this week might be a little too hasty for McAvoy’s return with a back-to-back setup with travel this weekend, Saturday on the road in Buffalo and Sunday at home vs. Vancouver, but next week’s home game vs. the Flyers after three days of practice could be a little more realistic for the blueliner returning from offseason shoulder surgery. Who knows, though? Perhaps he plays on Thursday vs. the Flames and then sits out this weekend’s back-to-back before returning to regular duty next week in similar usage to Marchand when he first returned from summer surgery rehab.
Once McAvoy comes back and brings his Norris Trophy level ability with him, the Boston Bruins will have two No. 1 defenseman playing at the top of their games with Hampus Lindholm also garnering early Norris consideration with his play. The 28-year-old Lindholm has been stellar with four goals and 13 points in 13 games along with a plus-12 rating while averaging 24:13 of ice time, ranking him second in the Bruins in points behind only David Pastrnak.
Put those two D-men in the same group and the Bruins will have some ideal choices, whether it’s playing them together 25 minutes a game while controlling play for half the game or splitting them up and making sure they have a top D-man on the ice pretty much all the time for the Black and Gold.
“I think he’s easily one of the top defensemen in the league,” Jim Montgomery said last week ahead of McAvoy joining the B’s on a road trip through Pittsburgh, New York and Toronto. “Everybody’s different. (Cale) Makar does it differently than he does. But I don’t like to put a ceiling on a player that’s that talented. He can beat people one-on-one. He can give and go. He can outskate people. He can out-physical people.”
“So … I mean … yeah…I’m starting to get excited now.”
The Boston Bruins continue to plan for McAvoy to be back prior to the Thanksgiving holiday that served as his original timetable, and that means exploring cap-friendly trades of players like Craig Smith and Mike Reilly while eventually needing to clear space for the defenseman. It’s no coincidence that both players are in the lineup for Boston these days with a McAvoy return imminent, and a move that’s going to be made necessary when players like Forbort and Jeremy Swayman are ready to come off the injured reserve list.