Veteran Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller, still recovering from a pair of kneecap fractures he sustained over a two-month stretch last spring, could engage in full-contact practices with the team next week, a substantial step toward returning to the lineup.
“Progressing well,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy following Thursday’s workout in Brighton, where Miller skated in a red (noncontact) sweater. “He looked good out there. There’s still a timeline, and I don’t think he’d be available for the next three games, anyway.”
Miller, 32, exited the lineup upon fracturing the kneecap April 4 and was nearing a return to action at the end of May, only to have the same kneecap fracture, this time horizontally, during off-ice workouts during the club’s conference final matchup with the Hurricanes.
By mid-August, Miller was optimistic about getting back on the ice, perhaps as early as September, but wasn’t certain how soon he would return to the lineup. With the Bruins now 9-1-2 and already with Steve Kampfer as their extra defenseman, there has been little urgency on the club’s part to accelerate his return.
Miller and team captain Zdeno Chara are the club’s main physical presences behind the blue line. An array of injuries, including the first fracture of his kneecap, limited Miller to 39 games last season — his lightest workload since coming aboard full-time during the 2013-14 season.
Once cleared for game action, the 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pounder likely will ride with Matt Grzelcyk on the No. 3 pairing. If so, that will leave Connor Clifton and Kampfer as the two extra D-men.
The Bruins missed Miller’s snarl in the postseason, particularly in the Cup Final against a St. Louis team that was fixated on punishing the Bruin with heavy, often high hits.