No telling when the Bruins will have their full complement of players, all happy, healthy, and ready to perform. Thursday in Brighton, the signs were positive.
Missing mainstays Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara cruised around before practice. Defenseman Kevan Miller rejoined the team for the first time in two weeks.
Afterward, three others were thanking their lucky stars that sticks and skates didn’t cause major damage, and coach Bruce Cassidy shared relatively good news on two of the injured.
The slew of updates on the walking wounded, in advance of Friday night’s game at Pittsburgh:
■ About four weeks after their injuries, Chara (left MCL) and Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular) skated for about 45 minutes in advance of practice.
“They’re getting closer,” Cassidy said, “but there’s no timeline . . . I suspect we’ll see them in practice next week, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”
Chara’s knee buckled Nov. 14 in Denver when he checked ex-teammate Carl Soderberg along the boards. Bergeron was felled in the next game, Nov. 16 at Dallas, when Stars center Radek Faksa rode him shoulder-first into the dasher.
■ Miller participated in practice, though he was not cleared for contact, and sported a neck guard to protect his injured larynx. The rock-solid defenseman, who missed 13 games with a broken hand after blocking a shot Oct. 18 in Edmonton, has been out the last seven after taking a puck to the throat Nov. 26 against the Maple Leafs.
“It’s good to see him back on the ice,” Cassidy said. “He’s had a couple of tough injuries so far.”
■ Second-line winger Jake DeBrusk, recovering from a concussion suffered when he was struck by a puck in the back of the head Nov. 26, arrived at Warrior Ice Arena “feeling better,” Cassidy said. “Less symptoms today, so going in the right direction, but still not on the ice.”
Before reporting his condition and entering the league’s concussion protocol, DeBrusk played four games. He is unlikely to return until next week, at the earliest.
■ Fourth-line center Sean Kuraly was held out of practice after getting his broken nose fixed, but had a boarding pass to Pittsburgh. Cassidy wasn’t sure whether to call him “questionable” or “probable” to face the Penguins.
“We’ll see how he feels in the morning,” Cassidy said. “I suspect he’ll have to wear a cage for a little bit of time.”
Kuraly, clocked by an uppercut last Sunday from hulking Ottawa defenseman Ben Harpur, played Tuesday against Arizona with a busted schnozz. He had a couple of bones in his nose reset (a procedure known as a closed reduction). Noel Acciari took Kuraly’s spot between wingers Gemel Smith and Chris Wagner at practice.
■ David Backes, sewn up below his nose to the middle of his cheek, avoided serious injury when Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s skate caught him high on Tuesday.
The veteran forward, playful with his language, reported absorbing a “sharp apparatus near my moneymaker.”
“A few [stitches] inside, a few outside,” he said. “No worse for wear. Could have been a lot worse.”
Would any eventual scarring impact a modeling contract?
“That was voided shortly after birth, unfortunately,” Backes said. “Been married for 10 years; she still loves me. My daughter’s a little bit scared of it, but I told her it’ll heal in time.”
■ Charlie McAvoy had a scab underneath his right eye and next to his nose, the result of a high stick Tuesday from ex-Boston University teammate Clayton Keller.
McAvoy drew that double-minor against Arizona three days after Zach Hyman’s late (and suspendable) hit. McAvoy said Hyman hit him through his chest, not his head.
“I’m in good health,” said McAvoy, who has played four games since returning from a 20-day absence because of a concussion. “Can’t really catch a break right now, but nonetheless my spirits are high.”
■ Ryan Donato, who had dental drama last month (five teeth and 25 stitches after eating a puck), leaked blood on the practice ice after catching an errant stick.
“I was fine,” Donato said. “Got it right in the nose. Feel like I have a magnet on my face recently.”
McAvoy had a line of 1-5—6 in his first seven games, serving first-pair duty alongside Chara. Since his return, he has teamed with John Moore and fellow ex-Terrier Matt Grzelcyk. McAvoy hasn’t produced a point, but Cassidy hasn’t sheltered him, either; McAvoy played 22:02 against the Coyotes, highest among Bruins defensemen, and skated the final 1:57 in a five-on-six situation. “I think I’ve kind of taken off a little bit,” McAvoy said. “I think I’m playing well in my own zone, trying to contribute when I can.” . . . Why has Cassidy tabbed Steven Kampfer over rookie Jeremy Lauzon of late? The veteran, scratched last month because he was “trying to do too much,” has been moving his feet more. Lauzon could be assigned to AHL Providence if he remains inactive . . . Cassidy has set up an outdoor rink at his home in Winchester. Daughter Shannon “got on it for the first time [Wednesday] night,” Cassidy said. “She was out there for three hours, and it brought a tear to my eye because [son] Cole’s out there half the night.”