The Bruins, who have spent the last month losing player after player, will be getting a couple back in the near future. Coach Claude Julien said Wednesday that Dougie Hamilton and Carl Soderberg have been cleared to play Thursday against the Predators.
Though, as Julien cautioned, “It’s encouraging, but it doesn’t guarantee wins.”
Hamilton’s return is the more pressing, especially after the loss of Dennis Seidenberg over the weekend. The Bruins have allowed nine goals over the two games since Seidenberg tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee.
“He’s been given the full go by our medical staff here,” Julien said of Hamilton. “I’m hoping that if he’s good tomorrow that I get a chance to use him. So he’s certainly a possibility for tomorrow.”
Hamilton was a full participant in practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury Dec. 8 at Toronto.
“Just a little rusty at the start,” Hamilton said. “Got to get used to everything again, getting hit and pushing guys and stuff. But it felt good, so I guess that’s a good sign.”
Soderberg has missed the last two games, in Ottawa Saturday and against the Islanders Tuesday. The winger said he did not suffer a concussion, as had been suspected, in Friday’s home game against the Senators.
His return seems nearly definite, with the Bruins sending Nick Johnson back to Providence Wednesday. The team now has 12 healthy forwards, including Soderberg.
On Soderberg, Julien said, “Carl has been cleared as well. Carl, again, same situation, should be in the lineup tomorrow, and I always say that because you never know. You come in the next day and things have changed.”
While Julien is pleased to be getting his players back, he has also been pleased at the way his team has handled all the setbacks, including injuries to seemingly half his roster.
“Our team has been pretty even-keeled right through it all,” Julien said. “We obviously don’t like to see guys injured, but through it all I think we’ve stayed focused and stayed the course. It’s always nice to see players come back, there’s no doubt.
“But this is what I’ve liked about our team is that nobody’s hung their heads and felt sorry for themselves. You just have to look around the league — we’re not unique in that situation — so it’s just up to us to make sure we stay the course here and continue to play hard and find ways to win some hockey games.”
Slow on Eriksson
There is less good news on Loui Eriksson. The winger returned to the ice for the first time Monday, and began skating with the team Tuesday. He wore a green jersey at practice Wednesday and did not take contact. He did participate in some net-front drills, but his return is not nearly as close as that of some of his teammates.
“He’s just skating so he’s a ways away still,” Julien said. “He’s not supposed to do any contact and we’re just putting him in our practices so he can be around players.”
The coach acknowledged that Eriksson’s return would bring some decisions from the coaching staff. The Bruins have seen a lot of success from Reilly Smith while he’s been skating in Eriksson’s place on a line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
“I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it and it is something that is to be discussed,” Julien said. “You’re asking that question because it’s a legit question and we’re going to have to look at the situation. I think everybody sees that Smitty is playing well. So that kind of creates a situation there.
“When [Eriksson] comes back he’ll have been off for who knows how long, so do you put him right where he belongs? Or do you give him a chance to find his game a bit? Those are all things that I guess are going to be talked about before that happens.”
Kelly stays on track
Chris Kelly said he is doing better as he comes back from his fractured fibula. Julien said earlier in the week that Kelly is likely to be on the longer end of his four-to-six-week recovery timetable on the injury, which happened Dec. 7. Kelly, who also broke his tibia last season, said, “Everything’s on track. Obviously it’s one of those injuries that you’ve got to be a little bit careful with because you don’t want to push it too much because it could set you back.” He said he has started to do some work on the stationary bike, and expects to get back on the ice soon . . . The Bruins have lost two consecutive games, and have just two home games before heading out on another West Coast swing. “It’ll be a tough week next week, so if we don’t get some wins here the next two games, there will be a lot of pressure on us going to California,” Julien said. “So we need to think about the present, but we also have to look at what’s ahead and understand the urgency of getting a bounce-back win here [on Thursday].”