Leafs-Bru­ins: McAvoy’s re­turn en­er­gizes Bos­ton in time for Toronto visit

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - KEVIN MCGRAN SPORTS RE­PORTER

BOS­TON— The Bos­ton Bru­ins, who have man­aged to stick around the play­off race de­spite a rash of in­juries, are start­ing to get healthy again.

De­fence­man Char­lie McAvoy made a sur­prise re­turn to the lineup on Thurs­day against the Light­ning, hav­ing re­cov­ered from a con­cus­sion that had kept him out since Oct. 18.

“I thought Char­lie was good,” head coach Bruce Cas­sidy told re­porters in Tampa.

“I thought he was rusty han­dling the puck at times and I fully ex­pect that, per­fectly nor­mal.

“I was just happy to see that he had con­vic­tion in his game, wanted to be a dif­fer­ence­maker. How’s he go­ing to re­act af­ter be­ing out? There’s go­ing to be ob­vi­ous rust, but how is his as­sertive­ness? And I thought it was very good.”

McAvoy — a dy­namic blue­liner at age 20 with 38 points in 71 ca­reer games — was cred­ited with three give­aways, fin­ished mi­nus-1 and took a penalty af­ter he turned the puck over late in the first pe­riod, but seemed happy about his first game back.

“I thought in the sec­ond and third I kind of let my brain and my skills work, let it all take over, and I was able to play what I thought was good hockey,” McAvoy told the Bos­ton Her­ald.

“And I’ll con­tinue to grow on that, but it was just a win in it­self to be back out there with these guys.”

The Leafs and Bru­ins, who can­celled Fri­day’s prac­tice, have split the first two games of their sea­son se­ries.

The Leafs visit the Bru­ins on Satur­day night.

“Last time, we lost there,” Leafs winger An­dreas Johns­son said be­fore the trip to Bos­ton. “We have to play a tight game and try to get a win.”

While the Leafs are on a 5-0-1 run, the Bru­ins have lost four of their last five.

Their vaunted power play has strug­gled with just three goals in its last 15 chances.

So get­ting McAvoy back might mean more to Bos­ton than Wil­liam Ny­lan­der’s re­turn does to the Leafs.

“Char­lie back in the lineup helps (the power play),” said Cas­sidy.

“Mov­ing it along the blue line a lit­tle more, it opens up some seams.

“You want to at­tack the net, but if they’re jam­ming it up you’ve got to go to the open player, and that’s usu­ally the de­fence­man.”

De­spite their slump, the Bru­ins have man­aged to tread wa­ter and hang around the At­lantic Divi­sion play­off race.

Ex­pected to be among the top three with Toronto and Tampa, in­juries have taken a toll.

The Bru­ins have lost 105 man games to in­jury and still have four play­ers on long-term in­jured re­serve, in­clud­ing cap­tain Zdeno Chara and cen­tre Pa­trice Berg­eron.

They’ve made fre­quent use of their farm team and the waiver wire.

The Leafs, by com­par­i­son, have lost just 17 man games and boast a healthy roster.

Bos­ton’s Char­lie McAvoy says it’s a win just to be back on the ice.

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