McAvoy’s back for Bruins, and now comes the easy part

Sports
Charlie McAvoy

In this Saturday, May 4, 2019, photo, Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy skates during Game 5 of the team’s NHL hockey second-round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Boston. According the Bruins, McAvoy has been suspended for one game for an illegal check to the head of Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson during Game 6 in Columbus on Monday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BOSTON (AP) — When he’s playing, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said, it’s easy for him to maintain his composure and concentrate on the game in front of him.

Up in the press box, that’s the hard part.

“I’m not a very good hockey watcher,” McAvoy said as he prepared to return from his one-game suspension for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. “The game seems like it’s much longer.”

McAvoy was suspended for a shoulder to the head of Columbus forward Josh Anderson in the second-round finale. So instead of taking the ice in his usual pairing with Zdeno Chara, McAvoy was wandering around the media dining area before Game 1, wondering if he had to pay or not. (He didn’t.)

And while his teammates were beating the Hurricanes 5-2 in the conference final opener, McAvoy was in street clothes on the very top level of the TD Garden, trying to keep his emotions under control.

“Here on this level, I’m like this,” McAvoy said, holding out his hand, palm down, and moving it in a steady and straight line in front of his face.

“But up there,” he said, pumping his fist and bouncing out of his imaginary seat. “I’m glad I get to play tomorrow.”

A 21-year-old first-round draft choice from Boston University, McAvoy had seven goals and 21 assists from the blue line this year, his second full season in the NHL. He missed six weeks early in the season with a concussion and another two over Christmas because of a foot injury.

But he hadn’t had to sit out healthy, for just one game.

McAvoy said he would try to use the forced break to his advantage.

“Whenever you’re out, you can use it as an opportunity to get other things feeling right,” he said, adding that watching the game from above game him a perspective that would be beneficial. “I feel like I picked up on some things.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said McAvoy was missed for his physical play and his ability to start the transition to offense.

“Those up-the-middle passes that maybe the other guys just don’t have the vision or confidence, or both, to make,” he said. “Those quick-strike plays where forwards are getting the pucks in their hands in good spots with a better chance to attack.”

Steven Kampfer, who replaced McAvoy in the lineup, had Boston’s first goal, and the Bruins scored four times in the third period on Thursday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Sunday at the TD Garden, with the series moving to Carolina for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday.

The Hurricanes fell behind 2-0 in their first-round series against the Washington Capitals before eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games. In the second round, they swept the New York Islanders.

“We don’t want to get down 2-0,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we get to that point, that’s what everyone will be saying. We have some things to draw on, no matter what, no matter which way this thing goes.”

INJURY UPDATE

Cassidy said forward Noel Acciari won’t play in Game 2 but may be on track to return for Tuesday’s Game 3 in Carolina. Acciari (undisclosed injury) returned to non-contact practice on Saturday and was expected to be cleared for full practice on Monday, Cassidy said.

Saku Maenalanen is skating, but he still can’t shoot because of his hand injury, Brind’Amour said. Forward Jordan Martinook “is going to play,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s banged up, a little gimpy out there. But we want him in the lineup.”

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