WILMINGTON — Chris Kelly walked around the locker room at Ristuccia Arena on Friday morning without a cast, without crutches, and with a smile.
The veteran was diagnosed with a broken left tibia following a collision with Senators forward Chris Neil on Monday, but was happy to escape without a career-threatening injury.
The crash was unavoidable, with the two skating swiftly in opposite directions. Kelly’s leg made direct contact with Neil’s.
“It hurt,” Kelly said. “But the good thing is it could have been much worse. It’s just a hockey play, to be honest. Both guys turned there and we didn’t really have any place to go. Things happen quickly there, that’s all it was.
“[Neil] sent me a text right after and apologized and I just said, ‘It’s a hockey play, that’s all it is.’ ”
The third-line center is optimistic he could return before the Bruins’ regular-season finale April 27, but he’s been given no time frame from the team’s medical staff. Surgery is unlikely.
“It’s just one of those things time will heal, and it will heal on its own,” Kelly said. “I’m using ice and we’re trying to get rid of a lot of the swelling that accumulated. That’s the major thing, just making sure I don’t lose too much strength with the leg.”
Kelly, who has appeared in at least 75 games for seven straight seasons, said the most time he’s previously missed because of an injury was seven games after blocking a shot.
After putting up 20 goals and 19 assists in 82 games for the Bruins last season, he had been snakebitten this season, scoring just twice in 23 games.
Jay Pandolfo has been added to the third line in Kelly’s absence, with Rich Peverley moving to center.
“They looked good,” Kelly said. “I thought they had two games that they had a lot of offensive time and they moved the puck well. Pevs is great at center. We interchange a lot of times and read off one another, so it’s pretty familiar position for Rich.”
Coach Claude Julien doesn’t think of Peverley as a downgrade at the position.
“They haven’t really been a liability out there,” Julien said. “That’s what you can ask for from that line, and maybe with a little bit time and chemistry you’re going to start getting some production going.”
A good portion of Friday’s media session was spent discussing the lack of production from the top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton.
The three have combined for just six goals in the last 13 games, and Julien has considered separating them. But with the third line undergoing changes and the second line of Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand clicking, Julien doesn’t have an obvious solution.
“Bergeron’s line is doing extremely well, so you have to think twice before you break them up,” he said. “When you go down to the bottom lines, to put a guy into the top line isn’t the most evident. It’s a little bit of a tough situation there, but never say no. We’ve done it before, and if we have to do it again we will.”
Lucic and Horton may need to start taking more shots. Lucic, who averaged 1.84 shots on goal per game last season, is averaging just 1.5 this season. His shooting percentage is also down, from 17.4 to 11.1.
“I’ve just got to get them through,” said Lucic, who has four goals this season. “I feel like I’ve had a bunch of them blocked and all that type of stuff. [I’m] also overpassing a little too much.
“I think a shoot-first mentality is something I had the last few years and something I definitely have to get back to.”
Adam McQuaid was on the ice after missing Thursday’s 4-1 win over Florida with what Julien called a “minor injury.”
Julien wouldn’t specify, but said it was somewhere on the “upper body.” Julien said McQuaid could play against the Capitals on Saturday.
Aaron Johnson filled in for McQuaid on Thursday and was paired with Johnny Boychuk, pushing Andrew Ference to the second pairing with Dennis Seidenberg. Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara made up the top duo.