BOSTON, MA - On Monday morning, the Bruins held an optional skate at TD Garden, prior to facing off against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 pm (ET), with seven defensemen, 10 forwards and Anton Khudobin all hitting the ice.
Included in that group was center Chris Kelly, who has been skating with the team since April 4 in his recovering from a broken left tibia that has kept him out since March 11, and today he got the much awaited good news - that he was medically cleared. Following the skate, he said that he was feeling good and Coach Julien confirmed shortly thereafter that the centerman was expected to be back in the lineup tonight against Carolina.
"Obviously, when you're out of the lineup for an extended period of time there's going to be some getting used to," said Kelly. "Not rust, but I think you kind of take it for granted when you're playing every day or every other day."
"I'm hoping that the transition won't be too bad and come in and I'll just play my game."
Coach Julien did say that the B's expect Kelly to be in the lineup tonight, but cautioned that would be the case "unless something happens today and we find out something different."
Nonetheless, Coach - like Kelly - is just looking for a simple game, as the center works his way back in.
"Just go out there and play his game. I don’t think we expect anything more out of any player when they come back," said Coach. "He’ s got to ease his way into it, probably short shifts. He’s got to keep his game simple.
"Everything when someone comes back from an injury would do, and hopefully, not gain confidence, but gain momentum as the game wears on."
As the Bruins begin to get healthy, defenseman Adam McQuaid is still on the right track and progressing well, but Coach had told media following Sunday's practice that the D-man would not be in Monday night's lineup against Carolina.
After a hard, high-intensity practice on Sunday, the B's held an optional Monday morning, with forwards Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, David Krejci and Milan Lucic all choosing to stay off the ice on, along with defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference. Tuukka Rask also stayed off the ice, while Anton Khudobin was the lone netminder joining the team for pregame skate.
Forwards on the ice: Jagr, Campbell, Peverley, Thornton, Seguin, Kelly, Caron, Pandolfo, Daugavins, Horton
Defensemen: McQuaid, Chara, Hamilton, Boychuk, Bartkowski, Redden, Johnson
The B's lines have been switched around the past few games, a product of injuries, lack of sustained attack and finding chemistry with the new additions of Jagr and Daugavins, but the Bruins have constantly preached that if they stay within the system, work hard to get on pucks, keep it simple and support one another, it shouldn't matter what line they're on.
According to lines in Sunday's practice, and with the addition of Chris Kelly expected back in, Tyler Seguin is moving back to the wing and most likely skating alongside Kelly.
"Obviously I feel comfortable playing the wing," said Seguin following morning skate. "It was working out, I guess, in the first game [playing center] - a few mistakes there, and then obviously the first couple of shifts in Montreal, it just wasn't working."
"It just wasn't working in our own zone. Going through the neutral zone, just where to [the puck] up, and where to go. Obviously is has a lot more responsibility in your own end just battling and finding your man."
"I don't think it matter what line you're on," he added. "You just want to go out there and play your game. Whoever you're playing with, I think we all know each other well enough now that we can find chemistry right away."
"Obviously, if that's the way lines are tonight, Tyler is a gifted offensive player; it'll be nice to play with him," said Kelly, on possibly centering Seguin. "I've played with him before and we've got some chemistry and work well together."
Here's the projected lineup:
Ference and Seideberg started Saturday's game as a pairing, with Bartkowski and Boychuk together, though towards the second half of the first period (and after Montreal's goal), Coach Julien started pairing Bartkowski mostly with Seidenberg, and Ference with Boychuk, so I'd expect that to stick heading into the start of tonight's game, though warm-ups will be the best indication at 6:30.
Stay tuned to the Bruins mobile app, BostonBruins.com and updates on Twitter @NHLBruins for more pregame quotes from Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly, Matt Bartkowski and Coach Julien heading into tonight...
-Caryn Switaj ^CS