john tlumacki/globe staff
Brandon Carlo reached out by text to his ailing Bruins teammate, Charlie McAvoy, and asked if the rookie defenseman needed anything following his heart procedure Monday at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We live kind of near each other,” noted Carlo, “so I wanted to see if he needed anything at Whole Foods.”
With McAvoy expected to be sidelined for two weeks following an ablation procedure aimed at righting an irregular heartbeat, the Bruins returned to the business of hockey Tuesday night, facing the New Jersey Devils at the Garden.
But, Carlo acknowledged, it was somewhat of a shock to learn that the 20-year-old McAvoy needed a heart procedure.
“At first it makes your heart drop a little bit,” said Carlo. “But ultimately you kind of figure out a little bit more of what it is and it’s not too severe, in a way, and ultimately it will be OK. After you hear that kind of news, and with the training staff that we have, it’s very reassuring.”
Coach Bruce Cassidy, addressing the media following the team’s workout in Brighton, repeatedly said that McAvoy’s health is the Bruins’ No. 1 priority, and that the club will follow with more details on his status when it sees fit.
The team’s release Monday noted that McAvoy experienced an abnormal heartbeat during a 4-2 loss to the Oilers Nov. 26, a 5 p.m. start in which McAvoy logged a beefy 24:58 in ice time — in keeping with his regular workload.
In his 23 games that followed, McAvoy logged greater than 20 minutes of ice time in 20 of them, including his 23:56 in Saturday night’s 4-1 win at Montreal.
McAvoy, a Rookie of the Year candidate, showed no sign of fatigue, hesitancy, or inconsistency over the last two months leading up to the surgical procedure. He collected four assists over the last five games. For the season, he has produced a line of 5-20—25 in 45 games.
Asked if he had McAvoy’s condition in mind during games the last two months, Cassidy said, “No, it’s not going through my head, because I think there was a statement [Monday] there was no risk, so it was up to him — Charlie, his parents, and the medical staff — when, if, ‘Do we need to deal with this accordingly?’ And that’s a decision they made and we support them 100 percent.”
McAvoy has played all season with veteran Zdeno Chara as his partner. Carlo, who partnered last season with Big Z, returned to that role Tuesday night and is expected to fill that spot for the duration of McAvoy’s absence.
The team’s release said McAvoy would be out two weeks. Cassidy said Tuesday his condition could be assessed following this weekend’s All-Star festivities in Tampa. Following the break, the Bruins return to action next Tuesday, with Anaheim in town.
“I don’t know what the exact plan is,” said Cassidy. “It is expected to be two weeks. Maybe it’s a little earlier or a little later. It’s a stock answer, but they [the medical staff] will have the answer better than I do. Coming out of the All Star break, I guess the easiest thing to see is, ‘Let’s see how he’s doing.’ ”
Cassidy said he had yet to speak with McAvoy since the procedure, but added that general manager Don Sweeney had been in contact and the defenseman “is doing terrific.”
Fellow rookie blue liner Matt Grzelcyk, who played one season with McAvoy at Boston University, said he too was initially taken aback by the news Monday.
“You never want to wish that upon anyone, and it’s tough to see,” said Grzelcyk.
“It’s pretty scary when you hear about that, but I am not too sure about what is going on really. I just know he will be out two weeks and then go from there.”
Grzelcyk also exchanged texts with his former fellow Terrier.
“I think he is doing fine, and I know he’s healthy,” he said. “So two weeks off and go from there.”
Tuukka Rask got the call to face the Devils and improved to 15-0-2 in his last 17 starts and is expected to go again Thursday night in Ottawa.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” said Cassidy, “but it looks like all things being equal, we’ll lean toward him [vs. the Senators].”
Rask, back in the Vezina Trophy discussion after a very slow start that carried into November, surrendered only 26 goals in that 16-game run since his last regulation loss Nov. 26 vs. Edmonton.
Backup Anton Khudobin, stellar in his win vs. the Islanders last Thursday, probably will have gone two weeks without a start by the time he’s called on after the All-Star break. Following the game Tuesday vs. the Ducks, the Bruins don’t play again until the Blues visit here Thursday, Feb. 1.
Linesman Devin Berg, felled in a collision with David Pastrnak early in the third period, exited for roughly nine minutes (playing time), but returned around the 12:00 mark to finish the game with the quartet of on-ice officials . . . The Bruins’ two busiest faceoff men, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, won 22 of their 36 drops (61.1 percentage). The Devils’ top two draw men, Brian Boyle and Travis Zajac, went a lackluster 12 for 31 (38.7 percent). That said, the Devils generated 57 shots (39 on net) and the Bruins only 41 (24 on net) . . . Riley Nash now has 7 goals and 22 points. The ex-Cornell standout was 7-10—17 all last season and his career high for points is 25 . . . Carlo, seeing more action with McAvoy sidelined, logged 22:13 in ice time, his heaviest workload since his 23:53 vs. the Sharks on Nov. 18.
The NHL has yet to name an Eastern Conference defenseman to replace the injured Victor Hedman on the All-Star roster. According to Cassidy, the league had not contacted the Bruins about adding a blue liner to accompany Brad Marchand, their lone rep, for the festivities in Tampa. However, Cassidy noted that McAvoy (before his heart procedure), Chara, and Torey Krug all would be worthy of the honor.
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