SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - While the Bruins will be without captain Zdeno Chara for at least a month, the result of an MCL injury to his left knee, they may finally be finding some relief for their injury-riddled back end over the coming days.
Boston has played the last two games sans five of its six Opening Night blue liners, with Chara, Charlie McAvoy (concussion), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Kevan Miller (hand), and John Moore (lower body), as well as rookie Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), all sidelined by various ailments.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy - speaking with the media at the team's hotel in Arizona ahead of Monday's flight to Detroit - said he expects Miller to return to action against the Red Wings on Wednesday night in Detroit. Miller has not played since blocking a shot with his left hand on Oct. 18 in Edmonton, a span of 13 games.
"That's the plan. We'll see. He'll be a game-time decision, but he came on this trip for that reason," said Cassidy. "He's been practicing, will practice [on Tuesday], and should be cleared and good to go for Wednesday."
Cassidy added that McAvoy and Vaakanainen would join the team for practice in the Motor City on Tuesday as they continue their concussion rehabs. Neither is expected to play in Detroit and both are "questionable at best" to play this weekend's back-to-back against Pittsburgh and Montreal.
Nevertheless, the youngsters are nearing their returns - should there be no setbacks - and will be full participants during Tuesday's practice and Wednesday's morning skate. Both have been on the ice for conditioning sessions under the watch of skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold in Boston since last week.
Like Miller, McAvoy was injured on Oct. 18 in Edmonton and has missed 13 games. Vaakanainen took an elbow from Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki on Oct. 23 in Ottawa and has sat out the last 11 games.
"They're ready to get involved with the team and we'll see where it leads from there," said Cassidy. "I couldn't tell you now when they'd be joining the lineup, depends how they get through a team practice, the physical part of it.
"That's why they're coming. We wouldn't bring them if they couldn't do it...it's the next phase, so they should be able to get involved with the physical part of it. See where that leads."
Video: Cassidy gives injury and lineup updates
Should Miller return against Detroit, Cassidy said it would likely be either Connor Clifton or Jakub Zboril that would be the healthy scratch, though both have acquitted themselves well during their first two varsity games.
Clifton, who has displayed an energetic, rough-and-tumble style while playing with Torey Krug, has quickly gained the trust of the coaching staff. The 23-year-old has averaged a tad over 19 minutes of ice time to go a long with a plus-1 rating and 11 penalty minutes (he fought Stars forward Jason Spezza in his NHL debut on Friday).
Zboril has averaged just under 11 minutes of ice time while alongside Steven Kampfer on Boston's third pairing.
"I don't know, we'd have to discuss that," Cassidy said of which player would sit. "Zboril was the last one in, so we could certainly then balance the pairs. We'd still have three rights - Clifton, Miller and Kampfer. So probably one of those two guys.
"Wouldn't be [Jeremy] Lauzon. He's been steady, we're happy with his game. Obviously Torey stays in, [Matt Grzelcyk] will stay in."
Cassidy also said that John Moore, who flew back to Boston on Sunday to have his lower-body injury further evaluated, is unlikely to rejoin the team on this trip. He was not asked about the status of Brandon Carlo, who has been out for the last four games with a lower-body injury.
Cassidy did not have any new details on the status of Patrice Bergeron, other than to say the B's No. 1 center would not play in Detroit. The 33-year-old suffered an upper-body injury after being slammed shoulder-first into the boards by Stars forward Radek Faksa in Dallas on Friday night.
Bergeron flew home with Moore and was expected to be undergoing further evaluation by team doctors on Monday.
"I know he was in a lot of pain, but I don't know if there's anything major which is good news. But I don't want to speculate," said Cassidy. "I just know that he's not coming back to Detroit on Wednesday. From there, we'll probably have a better update maybe as early as tomorrow."
Tuukka in Net
Per Cassidy, Tuukka Rask will start in goal on Wednesday in Detroit. The netminder returned from his brief leave of absence on Friday night against Dallas and was terrific, making 36 saves in the 1-0 overtime loss.
"We want to get him back in there," said Cassidy. "He was excellent the other night."
Cassidy does not yet have a goaltending plan for the weekend, which includes a back-to-back against the Penguins at home on Friday and the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday.