WILMINGTON, MA - When the team reported to Ristuccia Arena on Monday morning, following their California road trip, there was a welcome sight before they hit the ice for practice.
Chris Kelly, about five weeks into his recovery from a broken right fibula (calf bone) sustained on December 7, was skating on his own, under the guidance of Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides.
"He started last week, mid-week, and just started skating on his own," said Bruins Head Claude Julien. "He's not close to returning here, there's still lots of time for him to continue to heal, so just basically more getting him to stay positive here. It's a frustrating injury that's going to take a while."
Still, it was a great sign to see him skating and smiling, even if he's still a ways away.
"It's one of those injuries you have to be careful with; you don't want to push it too much, because it can set you back," Kelly had said back on January 1, speaking with media for the first time since the injury, which he suffered on a slash during the game against Pittsburgh. "So [the staff has] been really good at doing what's best for me."
"Every day I get a little bit better, and that' the most important thing I think - if you have setbacks, it's frustrating, where if you can come in and do a little bit more each day, it's always a positive thing."
Kelly remained in a boot for a while, and slowly progressed from working out and staying in shape by riding the stationary bike with one leg. After much [lonely] time spent in the cold tub, he then graduated to riding the bike with both legs, before now beginning to skate.
We received an inside look at Kelly's recovery process in the latest episode of the all-access TV show, "Behind the B." The takeaways were the importance of "baby steps" in a tough recovery process, and also how mentally challenging injuries can be.
"The key to the success is the slow progression," Bruins team physician Dr. Peter Asnis said, as he examined Kelly's X-Rays.
This marks the second injury of 2013 that has kept Kelly out of the lineup for about at least a month, after he suffered a broken left tibia (shinbone) last March.
"It's important to stay positive and take a bad situation and look at the positives," Kelly had said on the show, highlighting time with family as a positive.
But the frustration of not being able to play still always resonates, which is why something as simple as skating laps around the ice, stickhandling or shooting, like the forward did on Monday morning, helps the process.
It's a morale boost, for both the player and his teammates.
As Kelly took strides out on the ice at Ristuccia Arena before practice, Jarome Iginla walked by, shouting "Lookin' good, Kells!" as he passed.
"It's just - you know - it's our team," said a smiling Iginla. "Kells is a leader. On the ice, he plays hard and everything, and he's a very effective guy, PK, timely plays, but also in the room - he's been through so much here, and lightens the mood up."
While Kelly still needs more time to heal, the Bruins are starting to get players back into the lineup, like on Saturday in San Jose with the returns of Loui Eriksson and Shawn Thornton.
In a close-knit group, the support they show each other comes to the forefront when faced with tough circumstances.
"They're all veteran guys and big contributors," said Iginla. "All of the guys bring something different. Thorty, being back, we were excited for him, Lou coming back and getting a winning assist, you know, a big play like that. It's awesome to have guys back, and we also know what each other goes through and how hard it is to be out of the lineup."
When the Bruins hit the ice for practice on Monday, Dougie Hamilton was not present for the skate. The defenseman logged 15:20 in ice time on Saturday in the team's 1-0 shutout win over San Jose. He's played five games back in the lineup after missing 10 games with an MCL sprain.
"He's being looked at right now, we'll leave it at that," said Julien. "We'll give you more tomorrow [Tuesday]."
White Line: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
Gold: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Gray: Carl Soderberg - Ryan Spooner - Loui Eriksson
Merlot: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton, Jordan Caron
Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid
Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson