An afternoon practice at the BB&T Center saw Carl Soderberg on the ice in a merlot jersey, along with the "Merlot Line" of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
It marked his first full contact practice since injuring his ankle on September 27 in the third period of the Bruins' final preseason game in Saskatoon. The pain and swelling around his ankle is gone.
Following the skate, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said that Soderberg was probably a game or two away from being available for game action.
"I think we're getting close to that," said Julien, who would like to try and get him back in the lineup when it gets to that point.
"I think it's important that we get players in. He had a really good camp and it's unfortunate he got hurt then. When the time comes, I'm going to have to make that decision. And if I can't take anybody out, I can't but I certainly would like to get him in there if I could."
"Very soon, felt good today," said Soderberg, who took part in a lengthy set of battling drills about halfway through the skate.
"I hate to not play, but 2-3 weeks isn't that long of time, and it's going fast, and you keep in shape pretty good, so it shouldn't be a problem."
The Bruins would have the option of sending Soderberg to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint to get into game action, but Julien was hesitant to consider that approach.
"I don't know that he's been out that long and those kind of decisions are made amongst coaches and upper management, so I think he's got enough experience here," said Julien. "And he's only missed what? three weeks? so it's not like he's been out forever."
Smith Sticks on Bergeron's Line
The third line currently sees Chris Kelly centering Brad Marchand on the left wing and Jordan Caron on the right. The trio played together against Detroit on Monday and for the third period of the 3-1 win in Columbus.
Coach put Marchand on the "hard-working" third line wing to help him get back to a simpler game, getting pucks in deep and working a North-South style.
The opportunity wouldn't have been there for Julien, if Reilly Smith wasn't available to move up to Bergeron's line with Eriksson, however long that stay may be.
During his time in Dallas, Smith mainly played a bottom-six role, though he did get moved up for a game alongside Eriksson, who assisted on his first NHL goal that night (February 15, 2013).
"He’s a young player and what I see in this young player – he seems to be getting better all the time with confidence. You see his skill level is pretty good; his hockey sense and his vision is also pretty good and I think we’re going to discover that this guy’s only going to get better as he progresses and gets more experience," said Julien.
"I think he’s got the ability to possibly be a guy that can move up there, whether it’s permanently or at times. He’s got that skill level but no matter what, he’s a good player and I like the way he plays. He’s consciousness and very reliable for a player that has more or less limited experience in this league."
"They’re both really talented players so I just try to get them the puck as much as I can; try to find some open space," said Smith, of his confidence alongside the two-way pair of Bergeron and Eriksson.
"It’s a good feeling when you have the opportunity to go on special teams or whatever it is. But I try to keep it pretty simple. There’s a lot of talented guys I’m out there with so if I get them the puck, more times than not, I think we’ll be more successful."
The familiarity with Eriksson helps, too.
"They know each other well and you can see that even in those 2-on-1s when they go together, they can read off each other pretty well," said Julien. "So it’s obvious that they’ve been together before and that they know each other a little bit better than we know them."
We knew heading into this season that Julien would be rotating seven defensemen into the lineup. He considers blueliners like Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton to be all in development stages, and would be getting them playing time. The decisions would not necessarily based on performance, but on keeping the players active and not "rusty."
"I think every game is a thought process of that; you've got to keep guys playing, you've got to keep guys not in the stands for too long, and that's what we've been doing," said Julien.
Bartkowski has played the past two games with Hamilton as the healthy scratch after suiting up in the Bruins' first three games.
"So do I have some decisions I want to make tomorrow [Thursday], and those won't' be made until you see it in warm-up."
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome IginlaGold:
Reilly Smith-Patrice Bergeron-Loui ErikssonGrey:
Brad Marchand-Chris Kelly-Jordan CaronMerlot:
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Bartkowski, Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton, Torey KrugG:
Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson