Bruins activate Charlie McAvoy from injured reserve
TAMPA — After seven weeks waiting for concussion symptoms to lift, Charlie McAvoy was in the clear.
And “thrilled” to be back.
The 20-year-old defenseman, considered among the NHL’s brightest young talents, suited up on Thursday against the Lightning, appearing in his first game since Oct. 18, and was minus-1 in 21:02 of ice time in the Bruins’ 3-2 loss.
“Felt good,” McAvoy said. “The first period I was shaking off rust, but the second and third I was skating and moving well, starting to play without thinking.
“I was just thrilled to be out there . . . What a win in itself to be back out there.”
McAvoy, who had missed the previous 20 contests, was taken off injured reserve before the game. He informed the club after the morning skate he would play.
“It was entirely his call,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Also, Kevan Miller was placed in IR and Connor Clifton was sent Providence (AHL).
Last Saturday McAvoy said his symptoms, which he called “overwhelming” when he reported them to the team in Edmonton following the Oct. 18 game, had waned. Both he and club officials had expressed hope he wouldn’t remain out long, but there was no definitive timetable for a return.
“Everyone has been good with keeping me up and keeping me in good spirits,” McAvoy said, “and we’re getting there.”
After several more than three weeks off skates, McAvoy returned to the ice Nov. 9. He rejoined the team two weeks ago.
McAvoy — who had issues with his vestibular system in the preseason, according to general manager Don Sweeney — missed one of Boston’s two preseason games in China with an unspecified illness, played in the first seven games of the season and posted a 1-5—6 line, offering hope he would be building on his All-Rookie season, when he finished fifth in the Calder Trophy voting.
Rookie Jeremy Lauzon was scratched, giving the Boston back line its first night without a rookie since Nov. 14. In that game the Bruins, already missing McAvoy, Brandon Carlo (shoulder/collarbone), and top prospect Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), lost Zdeno Chara to an MCL injury. John Moore (lower body) was hurt the next game.
Now healthy, Carlo, Moore and McAvoy were in the lineup against the Bolts, along with Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, and Steven Kampfer.
Hoping to add some jump to their bottom-six forward group, the Bruins claimed winger Gemel Smith, who had been placed on waivers by the Dallas Stars Wednesday.
Thursday afternoon, the Stars tweeted a video of Smith, a 2012 fourth-rounder, saying goodbye to the only NHL organization he has known.
He could join the Bruins for Saturday’s game against Toronto at TD Garden.
Smith, 24, is a strong skater who can play center but has been used as a wing. A left shot, he is 5 feet 11 inches and 190 pounds.
With career totals of 11 goals and nine assists in 77 NHL games, he has seen his ice time in Dallas drop over his three seasons, from 13:35 to 9:26 to 8:01 this year. He has two goals and one assist in 14 games this season, having been a healthy scratch in about half the Stars’ games.
The Bruins have had a better look at Smith than most teams. In two games against Boston last month, Smith squeezed off three shots and landed two hits.
The Toronto-raised Smith has a brother, Givani, who plays for Detroit.
Gemel Smith has one fight this season, a bout with Winnipeg’s Brendan Lemieux on Nov. 2.
After playing three seasons with OHL Owen Sound, he finished his junior career with London, where he was teammates with future pros Mitch Marner, Max Domi, Chris Tierney, and Bo Horvat.
In 29 games with London, he posted an 11-16—27 line, ending his junior career at 89-114—203 in 264 games. In the AHL, he put up a 35-51—86 line in 186 games over three seasons.
The Bruins have scored 17 goals in their last 10 games, a stretch that encompasses the absences of Patrice Bergeron, Chara, and for all but Thursday, McAvoy.
The Lightning entered Thursday as by far the league’s highest-scoring team with 114 goals. Toronto and Colorado were next at 102).
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, who did not dress for the last three games, was back in the lineup for Chris Wagner. He centered the third line, with Ryan Donato and Noel Acciari.
“JFK” went 6 for 6 at the faceoff dot, taking most of his drops against Steven Stamkos.
“I felt I was kind of engaged on the draws,” Forsbacka Karlsson said. “I also had good help from my linemates.”
Speaking of engaged, David Backes had four takeaways and five hits in 14:27, winning 8 of 14 draws.
David Pastrnak scored his 20th goal of the season, putting him halfway to 40 on Dec. 6.
“I just play, I don’t really care,” he said. “Obviously love scoring. It was going in early on, so obviously it’s good, a little confidence. Right now in the stage we’re not playing pretty well as a team, and that’s what I’m worried about fixing.”
Cam Neely scored Nos. 20 and 21 in the 19th game of the 1993-94 season.
Pastrnak also passed Bobby Orr for the second-most goals in franchise history before turning 23. Pastrnak (114) has six to catch Barry Pederson (120, from 1980-84).
Thursday night began an Atlantic Division stretch of three games in four days, with Toronto (home, Saturday) and Ottawa (road, Sunday) upcoming. Incidentally, the Bruins are 1-4-1 in the opening games of three-in-fours, but 3-0-2 in Game 2s and 3-1-1 in Game 3s. Sunday’s tilt in Kanata, Ontario, won’t be a friendly one for the Bruins, who play at 5 p.m. after hosting the high-powered Leafs the previous evening . . . On Dec. 15, the Bruins alumni team will hold a fund-raiser at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, N.H., to benefit New England Disabled Sports. There will be skating, cocktails, silent auction, appetizers, photo opportunities, and more.