WILMINGTON, Mass. – Brad Marchand won't be able to suit up for a game again until the Bruins visit New Jersey on Jan. 19, but he isn't out of action completely.
The Bruins forward, who was suspended for five games on Monday for his low hit on Vancouver's Sami Salo, is still allowed to practice with the club, and Wednesday in Wilmington he was put through his paces with the rest of the club as coach Claude Julien tries to make sure that Marchand is ready to jump right back into the lineup when eligible.
"He's just got to stay sharp," Julien said. "He's got to work harder than anybody else during practice. He's got to find a way to keep the sharpness in his game."
Julien did have a little fun with Marchand, threatening to demote him to the fourth line during his exile, but ended up instead having Marchand join Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Zach Hamill in the third-line grouping.
"We were going to put him in a red sweater there for a while," Julien said of the maroon jerseys worn by the fourth line in practice, "but decided to just to throw him a gray and not make it worse than it is."
Wearing gray was still a change for Marchand, who usually has been in a gold jersey with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Benoit Pouliot got to join that gold group instead, skating with Bergeron and Seguin as he did Tuesday night against Winnipeg. Pouliot chipped in a goal after collecting three assists on that line last week against Calgary when Marchand was sidelined by the flu, and Pouliot figures to remain with that unit as long as Marchand is out.
It's possible that Julien will make Marchand earn his way back onto the Bergeron line once he's eligible if Pouliot continues to click on that unit, as the coach hinted that Marchand may get opportunities to play with other forwards.
"We just kind of left him there and he can kind of rotate through with the grays," Julien said. "It's not a bad thing to play with other players on your team, too. It's going to happen at some point, but he's just got to stay sharp. We want him to be with us. We want him to be in practice situations so he can stay as sharp as he can."
With Marchand out, Hamill returned to the lineup on Tuesday and the Bruins did not have any spare forwards. That could change after Thursday's game against Montreal to close out the club's four-game homestand. The Bruins play six of the next seven on the road, and will likely take another forward with them as insurance.
"I would imagine so," Julien said of recalling another forward. "At home it's not too bad, [Providence] is pretty close by. But when we get on the road trip we'll be certainly looking to bring an extra body."
Jordan Caron has spent much of the season in Boston and would be the most obvious candidate to get the call from the club's AHL affiliate, but Julien wouldn't confirm that Caron would be the choice.
"That will be up to upper management," Julien said. "They're the ones that are watching what's going on down there [in Providence]. I do have my say in it, but at the same time it becomes a decision they make based on people's play over there."
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