BOSTON -- It wasn’t a return filled with great offensive chances or flashy plays, but that was no big surprise when Chris Kelly returned to the lineup for the first time after missing seven weeks of action.
The third line center isn’t a big fanfare type of player, and instead dropped into a fourth-line role to start Tuesday night’s game while skating with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. By the end of the night Kelly was back centering the third line in his customary role, and helping to kill penalties in 6-2 stomping of the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.
Kelly finished with three shots on net and a blocked shot in 15:22 of ice time. He also won an impressive 12-of-15 face-offs while bringing back so many intangibles to the Black and Gold fold. Kelly was certainly happy to get some penalty kill reps in before the end of the night.
“I was glad we took some penalties,” said Kelly with a big smile. “I thought the whole game went well, and I was used properly. Claude [Julien] did a good job of playing a guy that hasn’t played in 22 games. Yeah, I felt good.
“Fitting in, just the pace of the game, and knowing where to be -- I think just the whole feel of the game [was good].”
Bruins coach Claude Julien said the one-sided nature of the win over Florida allowed him to really move Kelly around until he got comfortable with his surroundings.
“I started him off at center, then put him on the wing, and then moved him up to the third line, just to give him a period of adjustment and to give him that opportunity,” said Julien. “When a guy hasn’t played in six weeks, I don’t think we stood there with high expectations more than wanting an opportunity for him to get his feet wet, and to catch up to the speed of the game. As the year goes on, it does pick up. I thought he handled himself well.”
Kelly certainly didn’t look out of place and seemed to be moving around well in his first game action since a fateful Pascal Dupuis slash back on Dec. 7. Now it’s a matter of Kelly building up momentum and solid performances as he gets back to the role he does best, and a chance to play with some bona fide two-way skill guys in Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson.