BOSTON - When the Bruins hit the ice on Wednesday for practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Patrice Bergeron and Adam McQuaid were both back skating with their teammates.
Bergeron missed the Bruins' first three games of the season recovering from a lower-body injury, while McQuaid has been day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
"Feeling good. It was nice to be back with the guys on the ice," said Bergeron, who wasn't limited in practice and has been skating since Monday.
"I want to be back as fast as possible," Bergeron said. "We'll see what happens. Obviously, I'd like to be on the ice and hopefully I feel good [Wednesday night] and [Thursday] morning, and we'll go from there."
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien was optimistic that Bergeron would be back in the lineup for Thursday's home opener at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils.
"Bergeron, I think he's on track to play [Thursday]," Julien said following Wednesday's practice. "Unless I'm told otherwise [Wednesday] or [Thursday] if he comes in and feels any different, I think we're hoping he's going to be in the lineup. It might be a little different for McQuaid, maybe a few more days or so, but I think he's very close as well."
Bergeron hasn't enjoyed watching from afar as his teammates went on the road together and pulled out a 2-1-0 record to start the season, bookending the trip with wins in Columbus (6-3) and Winnipeg (4-1).
"It was really hard. A little frustrating, at the same time, not being able to go on the first road trip with the guys and battle with them early on," said Bergeron. "It was nice to be back with them at least on the ice and I can look forward for the upcoming games."
Even if he wasn't taking part, the alternate captain was encouraged by what he saw.
"Definitely. I think the way they've battled," said Bergeron. "They showed up [in Winnipeg] and they had a really good bounce-back game, and first game, same thing, they got back in that game and showed a lot of character, so it was really great to see a lot of young players were getting their feet wet at the same time and did a great job at that, so I was really pleased with the way that everyone showed up."
Video: Bergeron, McQuaid back skating with team
Bergeron, Julien Praise Pastrnak
When Bergeron returns, he'll likely be centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, who head into Thursday's game with a combined six goals and 13 points. Pastrnak is on a three-game, four-goal scoring streak.
"He's been playing amazing hockey right now," Bergeron said of Pastrnak. "He seems to really be creating a lot of chances, but also playing some smart hockey and Brad and David were really, really good during that road trip, so I'm definitely happy to be back with those two guys and have the chance to maybe create some good chemistry."
Julien hasn't been too surprised by Pasternak's play to start the year.
"I think it's just a young player evolving and getting more experience," said Julien. "He's stronger, he's more experienced, he understands the game better and there's…more of the smart plays and he's also very confident, even more confident than he was last year and the year before. So, I think that's the evolution of a player that's gotten better with age."
"I think he's feeling it right now," Julien elaborated. "When you come into the league as an 18-year-old, you're looking over your shoulders all the time and you're not quite as strong as you need to be, and that's not easy. But, right now, I don't think there's anything that he feels is holding him back from having a successful year and he doesn't feel intimidated, he feels strong enough, he's winning battles."
"You look at him go against [Dustin] Byfuglien and Byfuglien wasn't going to intimidate him and he was going to go right back at him. That's the sign of a guy who's very confident right now and feels he belongs and can play here."
Backes Shifts Back to Wing
With Bergeron back, Wednesday's practice saw David Backes on David Krejci's right wing, with rookie Danton Heinen practicing on the left wing.
Backes spent the first three games centering Marchand and Pastrnak, while Krejci centered Ryan Spooner and Heinen. Spooner was skating on the fourth line for practice.
"Well, there's a young player on that line, and Spoons hasn't been as good as you need him to be, so it's been hard," Julien said of the Spooner-Krejci-Heinen trio. "David Krejci is coming off of major hip surgery, so he's got to find his game. He's got to work through that stuff, so it's kind of, I guess it's expected a little bit that he's not going to succeed with that."
"But, Backes would be a big help for David and give them some experience, some size, and obviously some grit."
Julien hasn't felt he's gotten a good look at Heinen yet through his first three NHL games, "because that line didn't play the way I thought it would play."
Riley Nash stayed centering the third line with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes (Austin Czarnik also skated with the line for practice). Four players donned the fourth line merlot sweaters: Spooner, Dominic Moore, Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari.
"It didn't matter who I put on the fourth line, they just played so well," Julien said of his fourth line's performance to start the season. "Nash, we moved up to the third and I thought that third line - even though it didn't produce - had some better shifts. It's about finding that good balance that's going to get us some scoring from all lines."
McQuaid Getting Close
Like Bergeron, McQuaid had to miss the first three games of the season and had to stay back in Boston and recover from his upper-body injury.
The defenseman skated in the full practice with the team and is nearing a return.
"It was a good step to practice with the team and I've been skating on my own here while the guys were on the road , o it was good to get back out with the group," said McQuaid. "Beyond that, I don't really know. Still kind of day to day, but haven't talked to anyone yet. Again, just great to get out there with the guys and be around the guys again and get into some more game-type situations."
McQuaid watched the rookies like Brandon Carlo, Rob O'Gara and Colin Miller ease into the lineup, with him and Kevan Miller out.
"They've played great," said McQuaid. You haven't really been able to tell who the first year players are and who aren't. Guys have done a great job. The future's bright that way, for sure."
Practice Groups 10/19
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
White: Danton Heinen-David Krejci-David Backes
Gray: Matt Beleskey-Riley Nash-Austin Czarnik-Jimmy Hayes
Merlot: Ryan Spooner-Dominic Moore-Tim Schaller-Noel Acciari
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, Rob O'Gara, John-Michael Liles, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, Adam McQuaid
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin