Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy still recovering from foot infection
Charlie McAvoy was on the ice and smiling, getting loose before practice, feeling good, and then . . . he took a puck to the leg. The upper, inner part of his leg.
“Hit me in a more sensitive area than that,” he corrected.
McAvoy was fine, but he feels like the Bruins’ Wile E. Coyote at this point. The next time he warms up for a real game, he might look skyward to check for descending pianos.
“I mean, what are you going to do, right?” he said. “2018 was definitely not my year.”
After Wednesday’s practice in Brighton, McAvoy made public the details of the December injury that has kept him out for the start of 2019: a foot infection, which will cause him to miss his seventh game in a row, and 27th of the Bruins’ 44, on Thursday when the Washington Capitals visit TD Garden.
On Dec. 17 at Montreal, the standout second-year defenseman blocked a shot with the inside of his right foot. In McAvoy’s words, the puck “exploded the skin” inside his boot. He didn’t miss time in that game, got stitches afterward, and “tried to make it work” through Christmas, the Bruins playing well and McAvoy, 21, eager to reclaim his game after missing 20 games because of a concussion over the previous two months.
McAvoy, who took pain-numbing shots in the area during a career-worst minus-4 performance Dec. 23 in Carolina, said doctors hoped the injury would heal over the three-day Christmas break.
“Unfortunately on the 24th, 25th, started to notice signs of an infection,” he said. His family time cut short, he returned to Boston for antibiotics. Once complete, he returned to full practice Wednesday.
“It was good to get on top of it because I didn’t really know much about it,” he said. “It could have been way worse.”
Coach Bruce Cassidy said McAvoy (1-10—11 in 17 games) is on track to play Saturday at Toronto if he reports no setbacks Thursday morning. His return will push a defenseman out of the lineup. The choice will be difficult, given the five-game winning streak Boston (25-14-4) brings into its date with the Metropolitan Division-leading and defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals (26-12-4).
“This team, we’re starting to pick up some heat,” McAvoy said. “Everyone’s playing for each other. It’s been fun to watch. There’s an element of a little bit of sadness, you miss the guys, and kind of unfortunate to be out. At the same time, they’re playing really well, and that’s so exciting because no matter how many games I miss, the ultimate goal when I get back is to join a team that’s playing really well and be in a playoff position. These guys are definitely taking care of that right now.”
Another D.C. shutdown
As far as non-divisional games in January go, this date with the Capitals carries a fair amount of significance.
Not only did Washington hand Boston its worst loss (7-0) in three years in the season opener, the Bruins haven’t beaten the Capitals in 13 games (0-10-3). That streak —
seven road losses and six at home — includes four shutouts. The Bruins haven’t been a bottom-feeder in that stretch, either. Since their most recent win over the Capitals (a 4-2 road victory on March 29, 2014, in which the Bruins held
scoreless), they are 169-101-38.
Cassidy was more concerned about the big picture than revenge for Oct. 3, which was the sixth time in the last 25 years the Bruins lost by a touchdown or more, regardless of opponent.
“This team has had our number now for however many years it is,” Cassidy said. “We’ve got to get over the hurdle. They’re the defending Stanley Cup champions. If you want to be the best, generally, you’ve got to beat the best. I know it’s a long season, but we’re playing good hockey. I’d like to think our guys will be confident going into the game, not thinking about what happened opening night and over the years.”
Count David Backes as one of the confident ones.
“It’s time we turned the tide and got the best of them,” he said. “With our lineup playing the way it is, I like us against anybody.”
Halak gets call
Cassidy confirmed Jaroslav Halak will start against the Capitals. It is a chance for the netminder, who has been so-so of late, to build confidence. Halak was the NHL’s best goalie in October (4-0-2, 1.51 GAA, .947 save percentage), but his numbers slid in November (4-3-0, 2.53, .928), December (4-3-0, 2.74, .910), and are not trending upward after his lone January start (1-0, 4.00, .892 last Thursday against Calgary). Halak has started two of Boston’s seven games since Dec. 23, giving up four goals in each . . . Future opponent watch: Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen told reporters in Toronto he hopes to return for Saturday’s home game against the Bruins. Andersen (20-9-1, 2.50, .923) has missed the last six games because of a groin injury . . . After Tuesday’s blanking of Minnesota, Tuukka Rask is three wins from passing Tiny Thompson (252) as the all-time winningest goalie in Bruins history. Rask previously eclipsed Frank Brimsek (230), Gerry Cheevers (226), and Tim Thomas (196).