BOSTON - These days, the sight of a red non-contact jersey at Warrior Ice Arena is cause for a celebration.
Such was the case on Monday morning with the return of David Krejci to practice. The veteran center has missed the last 10 games with an upper-body injury, but is aiming for a return during the Bruins' three-game California road trip.
"The last few times on the ice feels pretty good," Krejci said following practice. "That's a good sign…hopefully have another good [skate] tomorrow and go from there. I felt good today, hopefully tomorrow I can not wear a non-contact jersey and do some more battling.
"We'll see what happens for the next game [on Wednesday in Anaheim]. I can't really guarantee anything, but I'm planning to play at some point on this trip."
Prior to the injury - suffered against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 19 - Krejci had been off to a strong start. The pivot was averaging a point per game, with a goal and five assists over his first six contests of the season.
After a long and successful summer of training, the injury was a demoralizing blow.
"It's frustrating, especially early on in the season," said Krejci, who played all 82 games last season. "You have the whole summer, you work so hard and then you play only six games and you're pretty much back where you started. I'm feeling better now. I put all those negative thoughts behind me a long time ago."
Krejci's return will certainly help ease the burden placed on Boston's other centers, particularly Patrice Bergeron. With Krejci sidelined - as well as the absences of fellow centermen Ryan Spooner and David Backes - Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has had to rely even more heavily on Bergeron.
In 11 games this season, Bergeron has played north of 20 minutes in nine of them. It is a trend that Cassidy would like to temper quickly.
"We've got to be careful," said Cassidy. "That's the problem. You want to stay in the moment and you want to win games, but you want to make sure you're not overtaxing, so how do you juggle all that? That's the challenge that as a staff we have right now.
"Can you do that 82 times a year? I don't think so. "It's going to catch up to him."
Cassidy praised the play of Jordan Szwarz, Riley Nash, and Sean Kuraly, who have taken on more responsibility with the injuries up the middle.
"That's when it helps with a guy like Szwarz coming up and giving us some good, solid minutes," said Cassidy. "That's where Riley Nash has to step up on the penalty kill and shutdown situations. Sean Kuraly has done a pretty good job…we rely on those guys a little more than we normally would. That's the hand we've been dealt. You find different ways to win."
Bjork, Marchand Nicked Up
The positive news surrounding Krejci's return to practice was offset by the absences of Anders Bjork and Brad Marchand. According to Cassidy, both players were "nicked up" on Saturday night against the Maple Leafs and did not travel with the team to California.
Bjork was involved in a violent collision with Toronto's Matt Martin at center ice, but did not leave the game. Marchand was playing in his second game back after missing two games with an upper-body injury.
"They weren't on the ice today," said Cassidy. "They won't travel today with the team. We'll see where it goes from there."
Cassidy's phrasing suggested that the team is not completely ruling them out for the entire road trip.
Noel Acciari also did not participate in practice on Monday as he attended to a personal matter in Michigan. Acciari's close friend and former Providence College teammate Drew Brown passed away on Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Acciari is expected to join the team in Anaheim on Wednesday ahead of the B's tilt with the Ducks.
"Our condolences go out to the Brown family and to Noel," said Cassidy. "I can't speak for him. At a young age like that, I can't imagine. For him to try to play the other night, I give him credit. But at the end of the day, everyone grieves differently and we'll give him as much time as he needs."
Ryan Spooner (torn adductor) joined Acciari prior to practice for a skate with skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold, but did not travel with the team to California. Spooner has not played since Boston's loss in Las Vegas on Oct. 15
Monday's Practice Lines
Jake DeBrusk - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Tim Schaller - David Krejci - Riley Nash
Matt Beleskey - Sean Kuraly - Danton Heinen
DeBrusk - Jordan Szwarz - Frank Vatrano
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Rob O'Gara/Paul Postma - Kevan Miller