BOSTON - Some two months after suffering a fractured right tibia, Karson Kuhlman took part in his first full practice on Saturday afternoon at Warrior Ice Arena. The winger was donning a regular white practice jersey as he joined his Bruins teammates for the 45-minute session.
"Getting better, kind of taking it day by day right now," said Kuhlman. "But definitely progressing in the right way. Being off the ice for such a long time, it takes a little bit to get the cardio back. But I thought we did a great job in the weight room and also progressing on the ice here to help me get back to 100 [percent] as quick as I can."
Kuhlman, who remains on injured reserve, took a Jake DeBrusk shot to the right leg during Boston's 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs on Oct. 19 in Toronto and is slowly inching his way toward a return. The 24-year-old is not, however, ready for game action.
"He's not full go yet. He's full practice mode with his jersey," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "He's getting contact in now, but he's not ready to play games yet."
When Kuhlman is well enough to return, he is likely to start out in Providence given that he's played just eight games this season. Fellow winger Anton Blidh, who required surgery to repair a ligament in his right shoulder during the preseason, also practiced with the team on Saturday and is likely to follow a similar path.
"We'd have to evaluate that, what's best for him and the team," said Cassidy. "I would say - Blidh as well - guys that haven't been up here most of their career would typically go play some games to find their timing.
"I would put Kuhlman and Blidh in that category, but when they're ready if we're short guys here then who knows? Or if we're unhappy…but I would be surprised if they didn't go start there for at least a little bit."
Kuhlman emerged as a strong right-wing option for Cassidy late last spring, collecting five points (three goals, two assists) in 11 regular-season games, before suiting up for eight postseason contests, playing mostly alongside DeBrusk and David Krejci.
"Just taking it one day at a time right now," said Kuhlman. "Obviously the docs know a little bit more about what's going on, but just progressing in the right way."
Video: Kuhlman Has A Full Skate With The B's on Saturday
Krug, McAvoy Sit Out
After missing Friday night's game in Buffalo with injuries, both Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy sat out Saturday's practice. Neither blue liner will play on Sunday night against the Sabres, but they are "feeling better," according to Cassidy.
"They're not gonna play tomorrow - which we didn't expect," said Cassidy. "We thought originally day-to-day, probably meant a couple of games. My guess is next week we'll probably have a better idea when they're on the ice.
"I think they both may skate [Sunday] or Monday, probably not with the team, but at least get out there and see how they progress."
Video: Cassidy Addresses Media After Saturday's Practice
Making It Work
After potting 12 goals each in October and November, David Pastrnak has just four through 13 games in December. Despite his pace slowing a bit. the winger - who still lead the NHL with 28 goals this season - continues to contribute plenty of offense.
Pastrnak does not have a goal over the last five games but has registered assists in each of those contests for a total of eight helpers over that span. The 23-year-old delivered a nifty feed to Patrice Bergeron on Boston's first goal on Friday night against Buffalo, before making a strong play to break up a clearing attempt that led to Bergeron's second tally of the game.
"I think he's very unselfish, to be honest with you," said Cassidy. "I think after a while he gets more frustrated if the group, the line, the power play group doesn't generate enough. That's more where his frustration comes than his own personal game.
"At least that's what I've seen this year. Two years ago, I'd have to think back to see. I think most young guys probably take a while to figure that part out, it's about the whole group. I think he's been good that way."
Pastrnak has also been adjusting to an increased level of physicality as opponents begin to target him more frequently. The winger pushed back against Washington heavyweight Tom Wilson on Monday and on Friday in Buffalo, Pastrnak delivered a strong reverse check on Sabres forward Jeff Skinner as he braced for a hit in front of the benches.
"As for the physicality, that's just part of being a good player," said Cassidy. "[Brad Marchand's] had to live with it for a while - go down the list through the league and guys are going to get targeted. They've got to figure out a way to keep their composure, protect themselves. The reverse hit last night on Skinner is a good example of how you can protect yourself when you see it coming.
"As a team, have your teammates have your back as well. There's all those combinations. He's done good. He's not afraid to mix it up. We've seen it in the past. He's fought, he's fought for his teammates. The other night he got mixed up with Wilson. He hung in there. I think he's fine that way."
Video: Bergeron In December's Black Dog Breakdown
Saturday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - David Backes
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Anton Blidh - Par Lindholm - Brett Ritchie - Karson Kuhlman
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
John Moore - Steven Kampfer