TAMPA, FL – The Bruins lost their third regulation game in a row with Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they did get a win in the healthy return of second-year D-man Charlie McAvoy to the lineup.
After missing the last 20 games with concussion symptoms, McAvoy determined that now was the time to jump back in while feeling healthy and getting through a long off-day practice in Tampa on Wednesday afternoon. There was clearly a little rust early on the 20-year-old defenseman stepped on a puck in the D-zone and hit in the ice in a first-period sequence that eventually led to a goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he had a few turnovers that probably won’t happen once he fully has his legs under him.
“I thought Charlie was good. I thought he was rusty handling the puck at times, but I fully expected that,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s perfectly normal. I was just happy that he had conviction in his game and that he wanted to be a difference-maker. That’s all I was concerned about. I just wondered how his assertiveness was going to be, and I thought it was very good.”
But when it was all said and done, McAvoy played a whopping 21:02 of ice time after not playing a game since Oct. 18 and looked better, stronger and more confidence as the game rolled on. More importantly, the puck-moving defenseman also felt good physically and mentally and was able to banish any doubts or feelings of hesitation from his game.
It would have been better for McAvoy to return in a win, but his level of play against a top quality opponent like Tampa Bay gives plenty of reason for optimism.
"What a win in and of itself to be back out there. We're a family and I missed these guys a heck of a lot while I was out,” said McAvoy. “It was an unfortunate loss, but an encouraging effort at the end. Nobody ever said die and nobody quit, so there’s something we can take from that.
“To get back to playing I had to be a in a clear state of mind and confident in where I am health-wise, and I was. When I’m playing my best I’m trying to make offense out of defense and at the same time playing responsible. The first period was tough trying to shake some rust off, but the second and third I thought I came together and started playing my brand of hockey.”
The positive is that McAvoy will just keep getting better and more effective for the Bruins provided he can stay healthy and that in turn will make the undermanned B’s a better group offensively, defensively and on special teams.
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