WILMINGTON, Mass. — Boston Bruins forward Chris Kelly practiced with the team Thursday in the latest step in his ongoing recovery from a fractured fibula.
While it’s still unclear when Kelly will return to action, he certainly appears to be getting closer to playing in a game for the first time since Dec. 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Kelly’s first practice that the veteran will travel with the team to Philadelphia for Saturday’s game against the Flyers, but it’s still not known when he’ll make his game return.
When Kelly does come back, he’ll give the Bruins another veteran presence up front and could help to stabilize the team down the middle. Kelly’s spot on the third line has been occupied by young center Ryan Spooner, but Kelly’s eventual return means more than just another healthy body added to the mix.
“I think when you look at the experience, faceoffs, good two-way player, reliable, and his leadership, I think he’s been missed,” Julien said after Thursday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “But other guys have stepped in and done a pretty good job.”
Kelly’s pending return does mean some difficult roster decisions have to be made, but Julien isn’t quite ready to get into that yet.
“I don’t know when he’s going to be back [playing games],” he said. “Hopefully within the week. He’s been cleared to practice. Today wasn’t full contact for him. He’s going to progress hopefully quickly and see where he is by that time. He’s going to make the road trip with us. When is he going to play? When I’m told that’s he’s been cleared, and then when that comes, then we’ll make that decision.”
Also back on the practice ice Thursday was defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who has missed the last four games with a mild concussion. Hamilton took part in all of his first practice back, but Julien said the young defenseman still isn’t cleared for full contact. Hamilton might travel with the team to Philadelphia, but that decision hasn’t been made yet, according to Julien.
“I don’t know if he’ll be cleared to play,” Julien said. “He’s still very light contact right now. He’s not allowed to have heavy contact. He’s allowed to go in there and battle, but he hasn’t been cleared yet.”
Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid did not practice Thursday and remains day to day with a leg injury.