Charlie McAvoy hit the ice for a Halloween morning practice in a familiar costume. The Bruins defenseman skated in a practice jersey that was black, not red, meaning he was cleared for contact.
“Everyone will stop making fun of me now, about my merlot jersey,” said McAvoy, who has missed the first nine games of the year after shoulder surgery.
He had a left shoulder arthroscopic stabilization procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital on June 3. The recovery time was expected to be six months, an estimate that would put No. 73 back in the lineup the first week of December.
Coach Jim Montgomery said McAvoy is on track to return sooner than that, but not in a Brad Marchand month-early sense.
He will not play in the upcoming road games against the Penguins (Tuesday), Rangers (Thursday), or Maple Leafs (Saturday). McAvoy will travel, so he is set to participate in the next full practice, in Pittsburgh Wednesday.
“He’s ahead of schedule,” Montgomery said. “He’s ahead of Dec. 1. He’s just starting in his progression. We have our internal timeline. We’re hopeful.
“I’m hopeful it’ll be before Nov. 24, to be honest. But he’s got to check boxes as we continue to progress here, and he’s just starting that now. Today was the first day where he had a little bit of contact, but everybody kind of knew it was cautionary around him.”
Montgomery won’t allow himself to think about what McAvoy, whom he describes as the total package and “one of the top defensemen in the league,” could bring to his lineup.
“He’s still far from being able to play for us,” Montgomery said. “We’re excited he’s on the ice, he’s going to get repetitions of how we want to play, because it’s a little bit different. You can tell, because he was a little bit deer-in-headlights at the beginning of practice.
“Everyone knows what we’re doing just by the name of drills and what we’re doing, and he’s looking and he watches the first couple of reps before he goes.”
Those skates won’t be anything like McAvoy’s most recent game — May 14, when he assisted on both goals and logged 27:52 in a Game 7 playoff loss at Carolina — but they should be more steps forward toward the physical, do-it-all game he is trying to recapture.
“Our practices are very respectful; nobody really hits anyway,” McAvoy said. “Just to get leaned on a little bit in the corner, making some plays and doing three-on-three, five-on-five stuff, it was really fun to get back and play hockey.”
The Bruins, who had a rare two-day break from practice, looked a little better than Montgomery expected. But they’ll have to be smoother than they were Monday to improve on their best-in-class record (8-1-0) this week.
“The plus was their attitudes and their excitement to be at the rink, which goes a long way,” Montgomery said. “The negative was their sharpness, how good we were, especially in the checking portions of it.”
Krejci still sidelined
David Krejci (upper body) will travel with the team, though he will not play Tuesday, according to Montgomery. He is “most likely” out for Thursday as well. The Bruins placed Krejci on injured reserve, meaning he must miss seven days. It’s likely that is backdated to Oct. 27, when he was hurt against the Red Wings. That would make his earliest date of return Thursday in Manhattan … Montgomery liked what he saw from fill-in No. 2 center Pavel Zacha, who will continue to ride with Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak in Krejci’s absence. “I thought he transported the puck really well,” Montgomery said. “I thought he drove play. I thought he did a good job of getting pucks out to Hallsy and Pasta.” Montgomery said Zacha was closing “quicker than we expected” in the defensive zone. “It’s not an easy D-zone coverage for centers, and he grasped it and he’s getting better and better at it.”
By the numbers
The Penguins (32) and Rangers (31) rank T-6 and T-8 in goal-scoring. The Bruins (38) are first … The Penguins (15th, 22.9 percent) and Rangers (12th, 23.7 percent), like the Bruins, have dangerous but not top-of-the-league power plays, at least by the numbers. Boston ranks 13th, at 23.5 percent (8 for 34) … The Bruins have the second-ranked penalty kill (93.9 percent, 31 for 33). The Penguins (28th, 71 percent) and Rangers (17th, 79.3 percent) haven’t been as stout … Before he led the post-practice stretch, Nick Foligno took a pie in the face from Marchand. Happy 35th birthday to Foligno.