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Practice Notebook: Marchand Nearing Return as Bruins Prep for Arizona

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

GLENDALE — When the Bruins end their two game road trip on Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes, Brad Marchand could make his return to the lineup.

The forward shed the green no-contact jersey on Friday for practice at Gila River Arena.

He suited up in his usual gold jersey, taking contact and taking reps with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson. Brett Connolly, who has been filling in for Marchand while the winger works his way back from a concussion sustained on Oct. 10 against Montreal, also practiced in a gold jersey.

Marchand has missed two games while recovering from the concussion — Oct. 12 against Tampa Bay and Oct. 14 against Colorado.

“It was good to get out there and be in full practice with the guys,” said Marchand.

“I have to be cleared, so I’m still trying to figure that out, so we’re just taking it step by step and right now it’s just kind of day to day.”

While the Bruins were able to pick up their first win of the season on Wednesday with a 6-2 victory over Colorado, they will always welcome a healthy Marchand back to the lineup.

“It’s tough, because you want to be back as fast as possible but at the same time, you’re dealing with your health and your life, so it’s tough because I want to be out there,” said Marchand, who has been through a couple of concussions in his career. “But at the same time, it’s better just to make sure you’re 100 percent instead of 90, because the last thing I want to do is come back and get hit again and be out for a longer period of time.”

“So it is tough, because you’ve got to take it slow.”

Luckily for Marchand, he barely had symptoms and has continued a steady progression since he returned to practice on Tuesday with no setbacks.

“I feel pretty good — I mean, you’ve got to take it day to day, because things can arise later in the day, every 24 hours, you have to kind of check in,” he said. “I’ve been feeling pretty good, so I’m hoping to get back soon.”

“From what I’ve been told, he continues to go through the protocol,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “He’s pretty close to the end there so I’ll find out more. Obviously [Friday] was his first day that he could have a little bit of a contact, so if everything goes well, maybe — and that’s not my decision, but we’ll find out soon enough.”

Kelly Impacting Third Line

If Marchand returns on Saturday alongside Bergeron and Eriksson, Connolly will be slotted elsewhere in the lineup. The forward had started the season with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes. The new trio was starting to find chemistry, but struggled in the defensive zone.

During Marchand’s absence, Chris Kelly joined Spooner and Hayes on the third line. With his veteran presence, help on faceoffs and communication, they erupted for three goals and seven points in the B’s 6-2 win over the Avalanche. It might be difficult to break that line up, even if Connolly will likely find his way back there.

“You’ve got to find the right fit and as you know, Kells has stepped into that third line and that third line’s really taken off and seems to be having some good chemistry there so there’s no reason for me to break up that line right now,” said Julien. “So that’s where there’s decisions to made here on what we want to do and which direction we want to go as far as our lines are concerned.”

“[Connolly has] had some good stretches where I think he’s a strong player along the walls,” said Julien. “But, you know, there’s been a little bit of inconsistency in his game and there’s a part of it where I think he’s still trying to find himself a little bit.”

“We’ve got to remember too he didn’t play much with us last year — I think he played two, three games, so he still has to be in that category of new players trying to find their way here, so we’ve got to keep working with this guy, because the potential seems to be there,” Julien continued. “Because of the assets that he has, he can shoot the puck, a big, strong skater, good size, not afraid to battle along the walls, so he just has to — we’ve got to fine-tune his game a little bit here in areas and that’s going to help us.”

Carrying Momentum into Arizona

A 6-2 win in Denver was just what the Bruins needed after their 0-3 start. Now it’s a matter of sustaining that effort.

“We played closer to a 60-minute game than we did in the previous three, where we had great starts, but weren’t able to sustain it,” Julien said. “I think that was a big thing — minimize our mistakes and we managed the puck a lot better, so that focus was there. There was still some mistakes, there are still some areas we want to work on, but it was encouraging to see how we played compared to the first three games.”

That was reinforced to the players during Friday’s practice. An off day on Thursday in Arizona following Wednesday’s win made for a lively, focused skate.

“We played a pretty solid 60 minutes,” Tuukka Rask observed while watching the game. “We started out great, as we have in the first game, and we just kept that going, and when we had the lead, we didn’t make the bad mistakes we maybe did in the first couple of games and we got the next goal to make it 3-0 which helped us and gave us a little bit more room to breathe, but I think overall we played really better as a unit and supported each other.”

Rask Rested and Ready

Rask will likely be be back between the pipes on Saturday against the Coyotes.

Jonas Gustavsson got his first start as a Bruin in Colorado — something that had been pre-planned before the team's slow start.

“I didn’t know what the plan was but if that’s the case, yeah, that’s fine, I’ll play whenever he tells me to play and try and be as ready as I can,” said Rask, who said he felt OK against Montreal, but wasn’t particularly fond of his tough outing against Tampa Bay.

“It’s been a good week of practice and you know, we played a great game in Colorado so I’m excited to get back out there and get a good win,” said the netminder.

“You’re on the road and you have a couple of days off, you can just kind of refocus and get some rest and get some sleep. When you get on the ice, you can work on certain things, so it could be helpful.”

The team playing better in front of him will help as well.

“I think whenever we play good as a team and everybody’s pulling their load, it doesn’t matter who’s in the net,” said Rask.

Practice Lineup 10/16

Gold Jerseys: Loui ErikssonPatrice BergeronBrett Connolly + Brad Marchand

White: Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak

Gray: Chris KellyRyan SpoonerJimmy Hayes

Merlot: Zac RinaldoJoonas KemppainenTyler Randell + Max Talbot

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Tommy Cross, Colin Miller, Zach Trotman

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson

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