Bruins right wing Brett Connolly was initially expected to miss six weeks after a Dennis Seidenberg wrist shot left him with a broken finger in his second practice as a member of the Bruins earlier this month. On Thursday, Connolly skated with his teammates for the first time since the injury, following one order.
“Stay away from Seids,” Connolly recalled his teammates warning him.
Now that the initial despair from Connolly’s bad luck has turned into something he can joke about, his attention has been turned to an eventual return — or debut, rather — that could come sooner than initially thought.
After getting back on the ice last Monday and working extensively with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides, Connolly’s progress from his surgically-repaired finger is apparent. Though he hasn’t taken contact, he’s handling the puck and shooting. Connolly is not yet taking slap shots, but slappers aren’t a priority for the right wing. Once he feels he can properly grip the stick (he says his comfort level there is at 60 percent), be able to fire wristers and snap shots to the best of his abilities and participate in battle drills, he wants to play.
Ideally, Connolly said he would be back able to play again in the final week of the regular season.
“I hope so,” he said of a regular-season return. “I’m not too sure yet. My timetable, I know I’m getting closer, so I’m expecting to be back a few games before this regular season [ends], but we’ll see.”
Claude Julien wasn’t overly forthright regarding Connolly’s timetable and whether he’s ahead of schedule. He did say the Bruins have been encouraged with what they’ve seen from the 22-year-old and that they’re eager to see him play.
The acquisition of Connolly at the trade deadline was an intriguing one for the Bruins. Though trading for the former sixth overall pick (and restricted free agent to-be) was more of a hockey deal for future seasons than a typical deadline acquisition, he was expected to slot into the lineup as a potential top-six right for the B’s down the stretch.
That obviously hasn’t happened, and Connolly has instead experienced a slow acclimation process to the team and the city. The Bruins are not yet bringing him on road trips, but Connolly said he’s established good relationships with his teammates, even if he’s spent more time with Whitesides than with any actual players.
“I’ve been here for almost a month, so the guys have been great,” Connolly said. “I’ve gotten comfortable with not only guys, but the city and knowing your way around, knowing your way to the practice facility and things like that. Just little things that make you a little bit more comfortable. It’s obviously not been the three weeks I would have envisioned, but I’ve gotten to know the city a little bit, get to know my teammates a little bit better.
“I’m excited to play that first game. Obviously we’re in a playoff hunt, so I’m looking to get back out there as soon as I can.”