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Patrice Bergeron returns to Bruins practice

Boston hopeful center will play in home opener after recovering from lower-body injury

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- After missing the Boston Bruins' season-opening three-game road trip because of a lower-body injury, center Patrice Bergeron practiced Wednesday and could be available for the home opener against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NESN, MSG+, NHL.TV).

"Bergeron, I think he's on track to play [Thursday], unless I'm told otherwise today or tomorrow when he comes in and if he feels any different," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after practice at Warrior Ice Arena. "I think we're hoping he's going to be in the lineup."

Bergeron was injured in practice Oct. 12. The Bruins hoped he would join them at some point during the road trip, but they went 2-1-0 without him. He started skating on his own Monday.

Bergeron said he felt fine after practice and didn't appear limited on the ice. Bergeron, who missed a total of 14 games in the past six seasons, said he was impressed with the winning road trip but couldn't wait to be reunited with his teammates.

"It was really hard," said Bergeron, who led the Bruins with 68 points last season. "A little frustrating at the same time, not being able to go on the first road trip with the guys and kind of battle with them early on. But it was nice to be back with them at least on the ice, and at least I can go forward for the upcoming games."

Bergeron said he hoped he could carry over some momentum from his performance at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. He had four goals and seven points in six games for Team Canada, which won the tournament.

"There's not much I can really control on that," he said. "It's definitely unfortunate and it would've been nice being able to kind of ride that wave a bit with the way that I felt. But it happened and I had to take the time to heal, and I've just [had] to kind of stay with it, I guess."

In Bergeron's absence, David Backes filled in at center between left wing Brad Marchand and right wing David Pastrnak. They combined for six goals and 12 points in the season-opening 6-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 13. Through three games, Marchand (seven points), Pastrnak (six) and Backes (three) are the Bruins' top three scorers.

Bergeron returned to his spot between Marchand and Pastrnak on Wednesday, with Backes shifting to right wing on a line with center David Krejci and rookie left wing Danton Heinen. Ryan Spooner had been skating at left wing with Krejci and Heinen. Krejci and Spooner had one assist each and Heinen didn't have a point through three games.

The Bruins are looking for more balance in their lineup.

"David Krejci is coming off a major hip surgery so he's got to find his game," Julien said. "He's got to work through that stuff, and so it's kind of expected a little bit that it's not going to succeed in that. But Backes would be a big help to David, and give some experience, some size and obviously some grit [to that line]."

Defenseman Adam McQuaid, who missed the season-opening trip because of an upper-body injury, also went through the full practice Wednesday. But Julien said McQuaid probably needs a few more days before he'll be ready to play in a game.

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