BRIGHTON, Mass – A few days shy of two weeks, 20-year-old rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy is going to return to the Bruins lineup tonight after undergoing a procedure to fix an abnormal heart rhythm.
McAvoy was fully medically cleared by doctors on Wednesday and has skated the past three days with the team while not technically skating in a full team practice ahead of tonight’s return against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.
The quick recovery certainly speaks to McAvoy's youth and high conditioning levels and also to a heart procedure that went perfectly for a young athlete who isn't expected to have any more related issues with it.
In a silver lining kind of way, McAvoy is looking at it as the kind of midseason breather that most NHL players aren’t afforded in the grind of the regular season. For McAvoy, who didn’t even total 50 games last season between Boston University, the World juniors, Providence and Boston, it might just be the kind of thing that allows him to sidestep the rookie wall that seemed to be waiting for him in the second half.
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“It was somewhat of a quick two weeks. It’s always a little hard when you’re on couch rest there and sitting around, so it does tend to feel a little longer than it is. But in the grand scheme when you’re back on the ice and ready to go within two weeks of the procedure, that was our goal and it was attainable. Everything was going to have to line up for it to happen, and it did,” said McAvoy. “I don’t anticipate being too far behind. In all honesty at this point 40 games in [to the season], to get a week-and-a-half to rest and relax is pretty beneficial. As far as the muscles, the bumps and the bruises and even the mindset, having a week away from the rink would be pretty beneficial if you asked just about anybody.
“So, I’ve had that rest and I’ve come back working hard, and this is the next step getting into game situations and getting back out there. I’m going to do the best I can to help keep the team going and trending in the right direction. They were playing really good without me, so I’ve got to make sure I come back in and I’m a positive part of the lineup.”
Either way, the expectation is that McAvoy will be exactly what he was prior to the procedure, which is the best rookie defenseman in the NHL and a workhorse who's averaged right around 23 minutes of ice time per game. The Bruins will need him too with rugged veteran Kevan Miller out for the game with the Leafs and still day-to-day with an upper-body injury that’s kept him off the ice the past two days.
Noel Acciari (lower body) will also miss Saturday night’s game and will be replaced by AHL call-up Austin Czarnik. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings with Tuukka Rask getting the start in goal: