One day after the B’s were rightfully bemoaning their bevy of injuries following a listless and punchless game against the lowly St. Louis Blues that was frittered away in the closing seconds of regulation, there were plenty of encouraging sights this morning out on the practice ice at Ristuccia Arena.
Patrice Bergeron , Milan Lucic , Andrew Ference  and Aaron Ward  were all skating with the rest of their teammates and running through a crisp, full practice — with Lucic and Chuck Kobasew  skating with center Marc Savard  on the top line, and Blake Wheeler  and David Krejci  skating with Patrice Bergeron at the right wing on the second line. Pretty interesting shake-up of the lines, and one has to wonder if Bergeron is sliding over to help provide some level of protection when he does make his return in the second half.
The final practice certainly gave coach Claude Julien  a chance to put all of hockey pieces back together for sixty minutes of ice time, and perhaps envision some of the possibilities for the second-half of the season.
Both Ward and Lucic could be back for Wednesday night’s matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs , and Ference is hoping to be ready to go when the B’s post-All-Star break schedule gets going in a much-anticipated Jan. 27 rematch with the Washington Capitals  at the TD Banknorth Garden . That game promises to be a phyiscal one, and it’ll be interesting to see which of the injured B’s skaters will be ready for Tuesday night duty on Causeway Street.
It’s easy to throw out the stats produced thus far by all of the injured Bruins players, but perhaps more important is just how crucial skaters like Ward and Lucic are to the B’s identity and way of doing things. In some ways, the Black and Gold have lost a little of the intimidation factor built up by Lucic banging bodies in the corner and striking fear into the hearts of defenseman trying to retrieve pucks behind the net.
Subract that along with the natural explosiveness of Phil Kessel’s scoring touch and Bergeron’s intangibles and Bruins fans are left with a decidedly incomplete team right now. Julien and Co. are hopeful that will change in late January at the earliest or February at the latest.
The schedule of return is still unclear for Bergeron, who isn’t getting any contact at practice yet since his return to the ice. Tuesday morning marked the third practice that Bergeron has took part in drills with his teammates, and there will be plenty more in his future before the doctors give him full consent to begin banging bodies again.
“I’ve been doing what I’ve been told and I’m just feeling better and better every day,” said Bergeron, who will not be making the trip up to Toronto for Wednesday’s game. “There wasn’t much contact, but it was more being involved in the 3-on-3’s and the 3-on-2’s. That’s something I started doing more of last week. Today was another step and I was involved a little more because I was with Krejci and Wheeler.
“Right now I’m feeling good in practice, but it’s only my third full practice since I’ve been back,” added Bergeron. “I’m feeling good, but we’ll see. I don’t want to put a date or a number on which game that I’m going to come back. I want to leave it at that. Last year was very hard thinking about playing in the playoffs and then not getting the chance. I want to come back as soon as I feel ready, and the doctors and trainers give me the ‘all clear’.
No YoungStars for the Looch
Bruins winger Milan Lucic has missed the last six games with a shoulder injury, and confirmed this morning that he’ll be sitting out of the inaugural Rookies vs. Sophomores game on Saturday at NHL  All-Star weekend in Montreal. Lucic took part in the NHL  All-Star Rookies Game last season, but felt it was more important to rest up and get healthy for the second half of the hockey season.
“I’m feeling better and I’m probably ready to play, but I leave it to the coach and the trainers to tell me when I’m ready to play,” said Lucic. “The more important thing is to be ready to play [in Boston] than it is to be ready to play [in the YoungStars].”
Perhaps the Lucic injury will give NHL  cause to do the right thing, and extend an invitation to David Krejci to join the second-year players against the Rookies in the YoungStars Game on Saturday. Krejci did play six games in 2006-07, but last year was considered his “rookie” season by all standards measured by the NHL. To wit: New York Rangers  playmaker Brandon Dubinsky is taking part as a second-year player in the Rookies Vs. Sophomores Game and the 22-year-old Dubinsky also took part in six games for the Blue Shirts back in 2006-07.