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Injuries may prevent Bruins' Charlie McAvoy from getting paid the way he'd hoped

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Injuries may prevent Bruins' Charlie McAvoy from getting paid the way he'd hoped

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- When the Bruins take the ice tomorrow for the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium, it doesn't appear Charlie McAvoy will be out there with them.

McAvoy -- who missed 20 games with a concussion this season after sitting out 19 last year due to a heart procedure and then a knee injury -- suffered a lower-body injury while blocking a shot against Nashville on Dec. 22. He played the next night at Carolina, then was placed on injured reserve and sat out the following two games as the problem lingered. He traveled here with the team but was unable to practice either Sunday or Monday. Coach Bruce Cassidy had said Sunday that if McAvoy didn't practice Monday "it isn't looking good" for him playing against the Blackhawks tomorrow. If he does indeed sit out the Winter Classic, it will be the 23rd game he's missed in 2018-19.

It’s still too early in his career to call the injuries and missed games a pattern, but it’s beginning to become noticeable that McAvoy is having a hard time staying on the ice.

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Some things, like the heart condition and subsequent procedure, are impossible to avoid. And to his credit, McAvoy did come back from the knee injury in time for last season’s two-round playoff run through Toronto and Tampa Bay.

Still, for McAvoy to become the No. 1 defenseman he seems capable of becoming, he can't miss pockets of time each and every season. Drew Doughty, a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman to whom McAvoy has been compared, has played the full 82-game schedule five times in his career and has never missed more than six games in any season that he’s played for the Kings over the last decade.

Some of that certainly is good luck; Doughty has been fortunate to avoid serious injury despite not shying away from contact. Some of that, though, might be a matter of getting used to playing through pain.

Only McAvoy and the Bruins medical staff know when he’s 100 percent, and only a player knows when he’s feeling well enough to play after a concussion. Injuries are often nobody’s fault and can heal slowly even though urgency is the name of the game at the NHL level.

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But if he doesn't find a way to stay on the ice, it’s difficult to see McAvoy getting the massive second contract that once seemed inevitable. As it stands now, McAvoy won't be able to command an eight-year, $60 million contract like the one signed by Aaron Ekblad, or even the six-year, $34.5 million deal Dougie Hamilton received. There are still too many questions to answer. The Bruins can’t sign a young player to an exorbitant contract like that when he’s frequently injured, and when there's still much to prove even when he’s out there.

The Bruins and McAvoy could certainly find middle ground on a shorter bridge deal with his rookie contract coming to an end at the close of this season. And maybe there’s still time -- if he gets back and stays in the lineup, has a monster second half, and amps up the playmaking and physicality skills he's flashed when healthy -- for him to prove he deserves the contract that will push him into that top echelon of young defensemen.

But right now the Bruins can’t give McAvoy his big payday. Not until they see him consistently on the ice earning it.

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Here's Bruins' first-round playoff scenario entering Sunday vs. Capitals

Here's Bruins' first-round playoff scenario entering Sunday vs. Capitals

The Boston Bruins' potential first-round playoff matchups are laid out for them as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Washington Capitals.

The Montreal Canadiens upset the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, thus eliminating the Pens from playoff contention. That means the B's will either begin their Stanley Cup run against the New York Islanders or the Carolina Hurricanes.

If the Bruins beat the Capitals on Sunday, they'll face the Islanders in the first round. If they lose, they'll face the Hurricanes.


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Carolina comes off three straight convincing wins over the New York Rangers in the Toronto bubble. As for the Isles, they took three out of four from the Florida Panthers.

Either way, the B's will have a tough test in Round 1, and their fate will be determined by their final round-robin matchup on Sunday.

Boston currently is 0-2 in Toronto, falling 4-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers and then 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In order to gain some momentum heading into the postseason, there's no doubt the Bruins will need to show more of a sense of urgency than they have in the bubble to this point.

Bruins' Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Jaroslav Halak miss Friday's practice

Bruins' Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Jaroslav Halak miss Friday's practice

Bruins players Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Jaroslav Halak were all missing from Friday’s practice in the Toronto bubble while “unfit to participate”, but all are expected to be back for Sunday’s round-robin showdown with the Washington Capitals.

Cassidy called it a “short-term thing” and expected all three players would be ready to practice on Saturday ahead of their final round-robin game this weekend.

“We anticipate [on Saturday] we’ll have our full group, but until we’ll just keep trying to make it work,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Obviously this whole training camp we haven’t had lines together consistently for different reasons. Will it affect us in the postseason? Time will tell.

“I’d like to see our group together to see what it looks like…all together. But until that happens we’re going to fit people in together for practices and games where they can best help us and then go from there.”

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It will be the first time the entire Bruins group will be healthy, ready and available to play and Bruce Cassidy indicated that both Ondrej Kase and defenseman Connor Clifton should get in their first game action of the last two weeks.

Clifton will likely play in place of rookie D-man Jeremy Lauzon in order to get him some game action prior to next week’s playoff games, and Kase will be expected to knock the rust off after being set behind while spending a month in quarantine at the beginning of the NHL’s Return to Play.

“He looks good. He’s making some plays. He’s got some jump,” said Cassidy of Kase in practice this week. “I think the first three days were tough on him for obvious reasons and now he’s been at it for a full week. You can see he’s a little more natural with everything he does. He’s got quick hands.

“My anticipation is he’ll have lots of energy and he’ll fight the puck like a lot of our guys early on in their first game back because of the speed. I anticipate he’ll get some shots because he’s been shot-first in practice and we could use a little more of that. We need him to play. Hopefully he can pick it up quick because he’s missed some time. We have every intention of using him in Game 1 [next week], we just have to see where he’s at [against the Capitals]. Hopefully he’s ready to go.”

With Kase and Clifton expected to play on Sunday, the Bruins will have everybody they expect to use on their roster with at least some game action under their belt and ready to play whoever their opponent ends up being whether it’s the Islanders, Penguins or Hurricanes based on the way things play out this weekend.