WILMINGTON, Mass. — Since the start of the season, Adam McQuaid has been waiting patiently for his chance to show what he can do for this Bruins squad.
He didn't want his opportunity to come at the expense of a friend and teammate, but now that fellow defenseman Johnny Boychuk has been sidelined for four weeks with a fractured forearm, McQuaid plans to take full advantage of his chance to get into the lineup.
"I'm really excited," said McQuaid after Monday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "It's not the way you want to get in, but I've been trying to stay sharp in practice. Injuries are a part of the game and chances were that at some point and time someone wasn't going to be able to play, so I was just trying stay prepared and be ready when I got the chance."
McQuaid hasn't played since the preseason, and will have gone nearly a month without seeing any game action if he makes his regular-season debut on Thursday against Toronto as expected.
"I'm sure it might take one or two shifts," said McQuaid, who last played against the Belfast Giants in an exhibition game on Oct. 2. "But I'm hoping the extra work I've done in practice will give me the best chance to get out there and jump right in."
McQuaid does at least have some NHL experience under his belt, having played 19 games in the regular season last year and another nine in the postseason.
"I think especially getting to play in the playoffs last year where the intensity level is that much higher [will help]," said McQuaid. "Also last year I sat out for a bit and got thrown back in, so that definitely helps."
The Bruins certainly don't seem concerned about having to insert McQuaid into the lineup again.
"We've got some quality players that have been on the sideline for a while," said coach Claude Julien. "Now they get an opportunity to play. Adam McQuaid – every time he's played for us, as far as I'm concerned – he's never cost us. It's always been simple but solid play and we have confidence that he can step in and do the job."
In practice on Monday, Andrew Ference moved up to the top pairing alongside captain Zdeno Chara, replacing Boychuk in that spot. The second pairing of Mark Stuart and Dennis Seidenberg stayed together, while McQuaid skated with Matt Hunwick in a reunion from their days together in the AHL in the 2007-08 season.
"At times I've played with him," said Hunwick. "We were both at Providence the same time in our first year, so there's been a few times that we've played together."
Hunwick welcomes the chance to play with McQuiad again, as the 6-foot-5, 209-pound McQuaid adds a different dimension to the combination.
"He's a big guy, but he skates fairly well for his size," said Hunwick. "I think over the years he's gotten a lot better at handling the puck and moving the puck. He's a solid stay-at-home defenseman, but he makes good passes. He's a good partner in that regard because you always know where he will be and he's definitely physical."
McQuaid, who had just one goal and no assists in his 28 games in the NHL last year, won't add the offensive element that Boychuk brought to the game, but he's hoping to replace some of the physical presence and solid defensive play that Boychuk provided to the lineup.
"I've been itching to get in," said McQuaid. "I haven't got to play a regular-season game yet this year, so I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully I can step in. There's big shoes to fill [playing] for Johnny, but hopefully I can step in and fill his shoes somewhat."
Boychuk is more than willing to help his understudy out in any way he can, and he's already offered some words of encouragement.
"I talked to him a bit yesterday when saw him at the movies," said Boychuk. "I know he's going to do well. He always does. I know he's going to pick his game up too."
If Boychuk's pep talk wasn't enough, all McQuaid has to do for inspiration is look at what Boychuk did last season. Boychuk was in McQuaid's position last year, starting the season as the seventh defenseman and sitting out 25 of the first 28 games as a healthy scratch. But once he got a chance when injuries created an opportunity for him, Boychuk worked all the way up to a top pairing role alongside Chara.
"I just kind of look at what he did last year," said McQuaid. "That's a good way to keep myself in a positive mind frame. If at the end of the day I could do what he did last year I'd be happy."