David Pastrnak could make his season debut for the Boston Bruins against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Saturday.
The forward practiced wearing a full-contact jersey Monday and it appears he's weeks ahead of schedule after he had a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair Sept. 16. The projected recovery time was about five months.
"First contact day today," Pastrnak said. "It's not fun getting hit the first time after four months. Obviously, I'll need to get used to that.
"A lot of excitement. It's been a long road and it's been a long time, so I'm obviously itching to get out there. It's been a good day today, obviously to practice with the boys and practice with some bodies besides myself. Really excited to hopefully get more good days like today upcoming."
Though Pastrnak skated with David Krejci at practice Monday, Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said that he would return to the top line with center Patrice Bergeron and left wing Brad Marchand.
"Skated in a normal jersey today, so he took contact, which was the next step in his progression," Cassidy said. "So this week we'll see how he handles that, and then obviously if it goes well and he wakes up tomorrow or the next day, depending on how much contact he needs and doesn't feel any aftereffects, then we'll consider putting him in the lineup."
The Bruins play the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, TVAS, NESN, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV) and Thursday.
"I don't suspect he'll play any of these home games, but probably travel with us and we'll see from there," Cassidy said. "So good news on him, but let's see how he does tomorrow."
Pastrnak said the September procedure was the most significant he's had in his career and that he struggled with his offseason training, which had to completely change. Though he is usually able to mix tennis and soccer into his preparation, he said his mandated program was difficult, especially the first two months after the surgery.
"The worst part for the professional athlete is the injuries," Pastrnak said. "It's always tough to see your friends playing and you just can't, so I'm really excited that I could finally practice with the guys today. It's been a long road, so I really can't wait. The closer I get, the harder it gets usually."
Pastrnak scored 48 goals last season, tied with Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead, and his 95 points were tied for third with New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin. He said the injury bothered him during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games, and was thrilled with his decision to have surgery.
"I'm so happy I've done it," he said. "It's wonderful skating on the ice now, pain-free."
Bergeron did not practice Monday, but Cassidy said he was likely to play Tuesday. The center collided with the goal post during Boston's 6-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, when he scored two power-play goals and had one assist.
"He had an extra maintenance day," Cassidy said.
Matt Grzelcyk also missed practice after not playing Saturday. Cassidy said the defenseman was "better" and has a chance to play Tuesday.