WILMINGTON -- The Bruins continue to gradually get healthier, and the good news kept right on coming with the sight of Chris Kelly returning to the ice on Monday morning.
Kelly skated on his own prior to the regularly scheduled B’s practice on the Ristuccia Arena ice, the standard first step for a player approaching a potential return to game action. Monday was the first time Kelly has taken the ice with media present since going down with a broken ankle on Dec. 7.
Claude Julien preached patience with his third line center, who is still not close to being considered day-to-day by the Bruins.
"He started skating a few days ago last week . . . midweek," Julien said. "He just started skating on his own. He's not close to returning here. We're not talking days here. There is still lots of time for him to heal. It's more about getting him to stay positive. It's a frustrating injury that's going to take a while."
Kelly exited the ice prior to the main team practice and remains out indefinitely, but his return is now on the radar after missing the last 16 games with a broken ankle. He was expected to miss 4-6 weeks after being slashed by Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis last month.
The far end of the six-week recovery window would have him expected to return next week. Kelly needs to be cleared for contact and must return to team practice with his teammates before playing in a game.
The Bruins also would have to make some tough decisions about their roster before then given the way Ryan Spooner has centered Boston’s third line that now consists of Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg. Spooner has racked up 10 assists in 18 games with the Bruins, and gives them electric speed and playmaking ability on the third line while complementing the creativity of his Swede wingers.
Kelly had three goals and seven points along with a minus-1 rating while logging 14:59 of ice time in 29 games for the Bruins prior to his injury. But his value is with his hockey IQ, his ability to win important face-offs, and the defensive mindset that makes him an ace penalty killer for the Black and Gold.