NEWARK, NJ -- As returns to the lineup go, things went smashingly for Bruins third-line center Chris Kelly.
The 32-year-old pivot had missed 14 games with a broken left tibia, but returned with 20 shifts and 13:23 of ice time in Boston’s blowout win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night. He blocked a couple of shots, threw a couple hits and won 12-of-23 face-offs while centering a line between Tyler Seguin and Daniel Paille -- and did all of this while also returning to his role as one of Boston’s trusted penalty killers on the NHL’s best PK unit.
Kelly said there were no negative after effects in the 48 hours since playing his first game, and he surprised himself with how good he felt on the frozen sheet for the first time in almost a month. There was clearly no fear about his leg when he was on the ice mixing it up against Carolina.
“I felt good,” said Kelly. “I had no issues. The day off was nice. Haven’t had one of those in a while, so it was good that way. Hopefully I just keep feeling more confident and better all around as we keep playing games here.”
Kelly will essentially have three weeks to wind his game up for playoff time, and he is appreciative that he didn’t have to try to jump on a Black-and-Gold moving train right before the playoffs.
“I’m glad I have this much time to feel better each and every game,” said Kelly. “I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt over the course of the game. I didn’t really put myself in any bad spots where I could have been caught out there for 1:30 killing a penalty. So I felt good throughout the game.”
There's one thing on the agenda for Kelly on Wednesday night: Get on the board offensively with his new linemates since they were the only forward trio that didn’t score during the six-goal outburst against the Canes.