Bergeron Returns to Practice, Termed ‘Probable’ for Tampa Game

BOSTON – After missing the last three games with an elbow infection, Patrice Bergeron returned to practice with his teammates on Wednesday at Warrior Ice Arena. Boston’s captain has a doctor’s appointment on Thursday morning and after that it will be determined if he is cleared to play for the B’s showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bergeron, who was termed as “probable” for the tilt with Tampa by coach Bruce Cassidy, said the elbow “flared up” the day before the Bruins played in Chicago last week and required him to return to Boston for surgery.

“The infection grew and I needed to fly back and really take care of that,” said Bergeron. “I have to get cleared before I can really say yes or no [to playing against the Lightning]. We’ll see. I guess if I get cleared, I’ll be there.”

Video: Bergeron meets with the media on Wednesday at WIA

Bolstering the Blue Line

Newly acquired defenseman Hampus Lindholm was on the ice for his first practice with the Black & Gold on Wednesday and skated alongside Charlie McAvoy on Boston’s top pairing. For now, that is where he will remain, though Cassidy said he is likely to try Lindholm with Brandon Carlo at some point before the end of the season in case that duo is needed come playoff time.

“We’re gonna start him there…[Matt Grzelcyk] has played with Carlo. Let’s see how Lindy goes with Charlie,” said Cassidy. “And then over time, we will make that switch just to see what it looks like. If you know me, I probably like to see what everything looks like at some point. That’s how you find out if there is some chemistry that you wouldn’t otherwise know. If it’s lights out for the next 19 games, yeah.

“Playoffs it might become a little more matchup-oriented when you’re seeing the same team four to seven times, then what’s a better fit? The intent right now is to keep him with Charlie and see how it goes.”

With Lindholm entering the lineup, the Bruins’ third defense pairing has become a bit of a competition with Derek Forbort, Mike Rillyand Connor Clifton all expected to compete for playing time. During Wednesday’s practice, it appeared that Reilly had a slight edge on Clifton for the right-side spot nex to Forbort.

“He needs to get reps there whether he’s in or out [Thursday], we’ve got to make that call,” Cassidy said of Reilly switching to his off side. “I think they’re all doing a good job but it’s a good problem to have. Cliffy had a hell of a game in Montreal. They’re all going well. One of them is gonna be unhappy [on Thursday night].

“But the message is, ‘Hey, we’re all in it together and when it’s your turn, be ready to go if you’re the odd-man out. Keep the body language out of the room. We understand if you’ re disappointed if you’re not in the lineup.”

Bergeron, while noting he hasn’t suited up against Lindholm that much over the years, said that when he has the 6-foot-4 blue liner has always been a handful to play against because of his hockey intelligence and ability to quickly shut down plays in the defensive zone.

“A player who’s still young but he’s been around for a while,” said Bergeron. “He’s got a lot of experience and also plays the game well. He’s a really smart overall defenseman, and he seems like a great guy, a great fit so far…it seems like he brings a lot of energy, seems to be upbeat and a great player as well.

“I think he closes really fast on guys. Defensively, he doesn’t work for no reason, meaning that he’s always in good position. And I think he’s good in transition…you can’t really sustain pressure in the zone because he’s always finding a way to kind of poke the puck out or break out or go back on the offense by making a smart play. And that’s frustrating when you’re playing against a guy like that.”

With Lindholm and fellow defenseman Josh Brown Now in the fold, Bergeron added that the team can shift its focus toward the stretch run now that the team is solidified.

“I think as a team, you do get a boost,” said Bergeron. “I think it’s nice to know this is our team and you can kind of look forward and get ready for the last stretch of the season. It’s nice once the trade deadline is over and this is your squad and we can keep growing as a team , which I think we’ve been doing over the last few months for sure.”

Video: Russo sits down with B’s defenseman Hampus Lindholm

Climbing the Ladder

The Bruins’ surge since the start of the new year – they have a 25-9-3 record with 53 points since Jan. 1 – has helped them gain significant ground in the Atlantic Division. With 19 games to go, Boston is tied with Toronto for third place with 83 points and just one point behind Tampa Bay for the second spot, meaning a win against the Lightning on Thursday night could put the Bruins ahead of both of their division rivals in the standings.

“I think it’s nice to have that challenge in front of you where it’s there and you can work towards it and find ways to keep climbing,” said Bergeron. “I know it kind of pushes yourself as a team to get better, to get those points. I think we’ve done a good job of that down the stretch and we’ve got to continue to do that.

“Over the course of the year, I think we’ve climbed and we’ve created a pretty big hole behind us from the teams that might not be making it.”

While the Bruins are certainly aware of where they sit in the standings, ultimately their goal is to get to the playoffs playing their best hockey, no matter what position they find themselves in come the first round.

“It’s a strong division no matter where you finish; whether you’re first or fourth, you’ve got a tough a matchup once you’re in,” said Cassidy. “I think I’d say the same thing about the Metro, to be honest with you. There’s gonna be no easy matchups. Our focus is getting in first. We’ve put ourselves in a real good spot to do that. If we can leapfrog a few teams along the way that’s great.

“We’ve always said our goal is to make the playoffs…you get in, you want to climb up and win the division, get home ice, all those little things. At the end of the day, how much does it matter? You’ve seen upsets in the past.

“Knock on wood you’re healthy when you go in. We’re trending in the right direction in terms of playing our best hockey and I think that’s why we’ve moved up and we’re right there with those other two teams. “

Video: Cassidy chats with the media on Wednesday at WIA

Wait, There’s More

  • Jeremy Swayman will get the start on Thursday night against the Lightning.
  • Cassidy said David Pastrnak has some “residual effect” from the ailment that forced him to briefly retreat to the dressing room on Friday night in Winnipeg, but that it’s “nothing that will keep him out of the lineup from what I’m told.”
  • Newly acquired defenseman Josh Brown should arrive in Boston on Thursday but will not be in the lineup against the Lightning.
  • Cassidy said he envisions Jake DeBrusk sticking on the Bruins’ top line now that the winger has remained with the team past the trade deadline. “Right now, he’s here to help us win the Cup,” said Cassidy. “We’re not changing where he is in the lineup right now, unless the team requires it type of thing. He’s been a good fit there. The lines are a good fit. He’ll have to do his part on that line. ”

Wednesday’s Practice Lineup

FORWARDS

Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk

Taylor HallEric Haula – David Pastrnak

Trent FredericCharlie CoyleCraig Smith

Nick FolignoTomas NosekCurtis Lazar

Anton BlidhJack StudnickaMarc McLaughlin

DEFENSEMEN

Hampus Lindholm – Charlie McAvoy

Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort – Mike Reilly/Connor Clifton

GOALIES

Jeremy Swayman

Linus Ullmark

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