Chris Kelly  skated for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday as he nears a return from a broken tibia suffered on March 11 against the Senators, but Thursday marked the first time he skated with his teammates.
Kelly participated fully in the Bruins’ morning skate, and though he will not play Thursday against the Devils, Claude Julien  said that his return to the lineup is right around the corner.
“I think it’s just a matter of probably days now vs. a week that hopefully he’ll be back,” Julien said.
The coach added that Kelly will travel with the team to Montreal this weekend for Saturday’s game, though it’s too early to tell whether Kelly will actually play vs. the Habs.
Though Kelly is itching to get back on the ice (this is the longest he’s been out with an injury in his NHL  career), he isn’t getting too far ahead of himself when it comes to jumping back in the lineup.
“It’s just about how I feel. If I feel good, I do a little bit more the next day,” he said. “If I don’t feel as good, maybe don’t push it as much. One step at a time. Today was my first day with the guys, and it was just a morning skate. Maybe if we practice tomorrow, I’ll get to skate a little longer with them and maybe do a little more.”
Morning skates aren’t a very physical affair, as the half hour is used for skating, line rushes, and other work such as special teams and face-offs. The next step in Kelly’s recovery would appear to be adding the physical aspect.
“I’m hoping not to get hit, to be honest,” he said with a laugh. “If they want to hit me, I guess that will be the next step.”
As for what he’s looking to get out of the final days before he gets back into games, Kelly said that it’s a combination of getting over the injury and getting his strength back.
“I think it’s a little bit of both. Conditioning is definitely a big part of it,” he said. “You don’t want to be fatigued and put yourself in a vulnerable position for other injuries. The fatigue aspect is definitely there. I need to work on that and just feel comfortable with the injury as well.”
When he does return, his line could look different. When he was injured, he was skating with Rich Peverley  and Jordan Caron on the third line, but since then the Bruins have added Kaspars Daugavins and Jaromir Jagr, both of whom could eventually be in the third line mix. The B’s have also used Jay Pandolfo more on the third line (Pandolfo and Daugavins played on Peverley’s wings in Thursday’s morning skate).
Kelly’s line struggled mightily before he went down, and the third line has continued to underachieve. He doesn’t view his eventual return as a chance to bounce back with a new linemate or two, focusing instead on just playing when he can.
“I just want to be back. Whoever I play with will be great,” he said. “I know adding [Jagr] was great, and Daugavins as well. There are a few new faces, but whoever I play with will be great with me.”