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Kuraly Rejoins Bruins Teammates for Practice

Forward, who began skating early this week, had been in COVID protocol since March 18

by Eric Russo @erusso22 / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - Sean Kuraly has cleared COVID protocols and was on the ice for Wednesday's practice at Warrior Ice Arena, joining his teammates for the first time since landing on the list on March 18.

Following a roughly 10-day stint away from the rink, Kuraly began skating on his own on Monday, but is likely still a few days away from getting his conditioning back up to midseason form. He has missed the last five games.

"He just hasn't skated a lot," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "We just have to manage that. We'll discuss it internally - should he go in [on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins]? Or is he better off skating tomorrow, getting a good practice and then going in Saturday?

"Those are things we'll have to look at. In terms of the COVID protocol list, I believe he's officially available [on Thursday]."

Jake DeBrusk remains on the COVID list but was back at the rink on Wednesday for the first time since being placed in the protocol on March 19. Cassidy said that the winger is "getting closer" to returning to the group.

"He was in this morning, he was smiling, happy to be back with the guys," said Cassidy. "He was limited, obviously, by the NHL's protocols, what he can and can't do, but he's getting closer.

"I think he was three or four days behind Kuraly, so I don't know if that means he'll be out with the group [on Thursday], Friday or what. But he's closer, so that's good."

Kevan Miller also skated with the group on Wednesday as he continues to progress in his recovery from discomfort in his surgically repaired knee. The defenseman has not played since Feb. 18, a span of 17 games.

Tuukka Rask (upper body) remained off the ice. Daniel Vladar will make the start between the pipes on Thursday against the Pens. The rookie netminder picked up his first career win in Pittsburgh earlier this month.

Video: Cassidy talks to media following practice day at WIA

Split Pair 

Cassidy knows what he has in Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk. The dynamic duo impressed during their time together as the Bruins' top defense pairing, at both ends of the ice. They spent minimal time in their own end and transitioned with ease through the neutral zone, creating plenty of offensive opportunity for the B's in the opponent's end during their nearly month-long stint as a pair.

But with Jeremy Lauzon and Brandon Carlo now back from injury, Boston's bench boss felt it was more prudent for the Bruins to return to the pairs that led to success - and a 10-1-2 record - early in the season and created some strong balance on the back end.

On Tuesday night against the Devils, Carlo was back alongside Grzelcyk in his return from a three-week absence with a concussion, while Lauzon took the left side alongside McAvoy on the Bruins top pair. Jakub Zboril and Connor Clifton rounded things out as the third pair.

"They get it, it's been discussed before that they'll be together at times, probably situational," Cassidy said of Grzelcyk and McAvoy. "When we're completely healthy, we'll use them in offensive blue line situations at the end of the period, when we're down later in the game. They'll certainly always see some time together.

"But as for permanent partners, when Carlo is in and [Kevan] Miller is in, and Lauzy at the start of the year, we liked the way it was setup, each pair. Doesn't mean we won't mix it around, I just thought it gave us a chance to be solid on the back every shift and not have to chase matchups all night.

"With the injuries, it kind of blew all that up. But now we're almost back to where we started if Kevan comes back in, getting closer."

Video: Grzelcyk goes 1-on-1 after scoring tying goal Tuesday

Bjork's Buzzing 

Anders Bjork appears to be gaining more confidence by the night. Playing the left side with Charlie Coyle and Zach Senyshyn on Boston's third line in recent games, the winger has been more assertive, with his speed and skill on full display. There has been a noticeable uptick in his effort to drive to the net, which has created a number of point-blank chances.

The 24-year-old has played north of 13 minutes in all four games of the B's homestand, including his two-point (goal, assist) outing in the opener against the Islanders last week.

Bjork said part of his success of late has been his enhanced inclusion on the penalty kill, opportunity that was presented by the recent absences of Brad Marchand, Sean Kuraly, and Chris Wagner.

"I'm really trying to take pride in my penalty kill," said Bjork, who has averaged 1:42 of shorthanded time on ice this season. "That's something that I've been focusing on a lot and working with the coaches on. It gets me on the ice more, gets me more in the game, a couple extra minutes. It's huge for our team, it's an important part of the game.

"I think that's been contributing these last couple games here. Been playing with some more confidence, getting around the net more, making a few more plays. Just trying to keep focusing on that and trying to get more pucks to the net and get to the net myself more because that's how you start breaking over that cusp and scoring goals."

Video: Bjork talks to media after Wednesday skate at Warrior

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