NEW YORK – Boston Bruins star defenseman Charlie McAvoy hopes to return to their roster as soon as he recovers from a complex shoulder injury that required off-season surgery.
McAvoy returned to practice last week and was on the ice for a long skating session at Madison Square Garden on Thursday ahead of Boston’s game against the New York Rangers.
“It’s his first week getting back on track with us,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. “We just have hope with him. No updated schedule. We have an internal process with him. He’s ahead of that December 1 date, but we don’t know exactly. There are boxes to check.”
McAvoy, 24, is considered one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He had 56 points in 70 games last season, leading the Bruins with an average of 24:38 of ice time per game.
McAvoy said he hit the point of full contact in practice, as he and team doctors ticked the boxes for his possible return to the roster.
“Now we’re in the strengthening phase. That’s the most important thing. It’s about supporting those muscles around [the shoulder] and get to a place where you feel like you can give and connect for long periods of time,” he said.
McAvoy underwent arthroscopic stabilization of his left shoulder on June 3. The expected recovery time was approximately six months.
McAvoy was injured in Game 6 of the first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes. He was slammed against the boards and his arm went numb. He played in Game 7, but that lingered after the Bruins lost. McAvoy underwent an MRI, was advised to have surgery and said he “wasn’t thrilled” to hear the shoulder injury was complex.
“I played, you know? We kind of threw the kitchen sink on it to make it feel good. So you play, go through, and I was like, ‘Oh, you know what. ? It must go. Like, I felt strong and I did it all,” he said. “Then you get the imagery, and I really didn’t have much choice, [considering] longevity and quality of life with injury. I just had to fix it.”
McAvoy said he has reached out to other players who have had the surgery.
“[They told me] it really sucks,” he said. “The general theme that everyone has told me is to be patient. It’s a weird injury. Mine was quite complex and it’s not one size fits all like some injuries. This one is really different for everyone. So sometimes you need more time. It’s not fun to deal with, but I’m lucky for the people I work with.”
McAvoy and star winger Brad Merchant missed the first few weeks of the regular season with an injury, but Boston didn’t suffer without them. The Bruins’ 9-1-0 record is the best start in franchise history in 10 games.
Along with sharing those wins, McAvoy said he missed the opportunity to bond with new coach Montgomery. The two spoke to each other during the offseason and attended a Red Sox game with their families. But McAvoy has been absent from the Bruins’ main squad in practice until recently.
“A lot of people say, ‘Hey, how’s Coach?’ Like, he’s doing a hell of a job, so he must be awesome,” McAvoy said with a laugh. “But, you know, it stinks. I’ve been on my own for a while. But all the coaches, including him, do a really good job of keeping you involved, watching you.”