BOSTON -- Bruins forward Loui Eriksson is back skating with the rest of the Bruins at practice, but he’s still wearing a green non-contact jersey nearly a month after a Brooks Orpik hit handed him his second concussion in a 45-day period.
Claude Julien said on Wednesday that Eriksson is “still a ways away” from returning to the lineup, and any worry about his place among the forwards would be premature. Right now Reilly Smith has been excellent as a right wing complement to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine the Swedish winger getting his old spot back when he does return.
Eriksson has missed a grand total of 16 games with the two concussions this season, and will miss his 12th straight game when the Bruins host the Nashville Predators on Thursday night. It was a big step when he returned to the ice with his teammates last weekend, but the Bruins will be taking the gradual approach after his second head injury of the season.
“Right now he’s just skating, so [Eriksson] is a ways away still,” said Julien. “He’s not supposed to do any contact, and we’re just putting him in our practices so he can be around the players.
“I’ll have to cross that bridge when he gets to it, and it is something to be discussed when we get there. It’s a legit question. We’ll have to look at the situation. Everybody can see that Smith is playing well, and when [Eriksson] comes back it will be after being off for who knows how long. So do you put him where he belongs, or do you give him a chance to find his game a little bit? Those are things that will be talked about before [Eriksson returns].”
Eriksson had his best stretch with the Bruins just prior to the concussion against the Penguins, as he was coming off 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) in 14 games during the month of November. As Julien has stressed throughout, there is no timetable for Eriksson’s return as he takes the slow, gradual steps back to being cleared to play.