BOSTON, MA - Chris Kelly is set to make his return to the lineup against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night after missing 22 games.
He broke his right fibula (calf bone) on December 7. After more than seven weeks of recovery, the centerman is more than ready.
"I'm going to play tonight, and I'm excited, first game back in a while, it's almost like training camp again, it's an exciting time," he said a few hours before puck drop at TD Garden.
Kelly traveled with the Bruins on their recent road trip to Philadelphia and Long Island, taking part in practices and skates. But he did not end up seeing game action.
"It's always difficult, but you know, there was light at the end of the tunnel, and we had a plan in mind, going into the last few weeks," said the alternate captain.
"And it would have been nice to play but it was nice just being around the guys, and being on the road, and practicing with them and they did a great job in those two games."
The Bruins picked six-goal wins over the Flyers (6-1) and Islanders (6-3).
Kelly feels "really good" and is finally ready to take part in the fun.
"The team's been playing well as of late and finding the back of the net, and guys have been playing extraordinarily well," he said. "I'm just excited to play. I'm not going to worry about all of the other stuff that goes along with that. I just want to focus on getting out there and playing."
He was activated off of long-term injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon.
"It's another body who's been out for a while, so [he brings] experience, good leader, and certainly I guess it's a good time for him to come in now, so we'll let him work his way in slowly," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.
With his first game since December 7, the approach for Kelly is simple, no matter where Julien slots him into the lineup.
He may be working his way into the lineup slowly, but the focus for each shift it to be as far away from slow as possible.
"You just go play," he said. "I don't think - you can't ease into it, especially at this point in the year. When you're playing preseason games, maybe you ease into it, but points are so important now. I think it's you're either ready or you're not and I feel good."
"I feel ready to jump right in, and keep playing, and not have any setbacks, and not look behind me."