Brad Marchand is not expected to play on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings, but Coach Jim Montgomery did say the star left wing was ahead of his original Thanksgiving target date.

Just when Marchand does lace up his skates for real remains to be seen, but there were signs in Wednesday’s practice that No. 63 is awfully close. He took his regular spot next to Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk, then jumped on to the No. 1 power play unit. To top it all off, he led the center stretch at the end of practice, usually reserved for a player set to return from injury or someone facing his old team.

But while Marchand was a tad more coy when asked if Thursday’s game was on the table, Montgomery did a better job of throwing cold water on that prospect.

“I’d like to see 63 (Thursday), but that would be five weeks ahead of schedule. I don’t expect him to play (Thursday),” said Montgomery. “He’s ahead of schedule. He’s going to play ahead of Thanksgiving. As you can tell, he’s looking good out there. His timing is starting to come, but whatever the doctors have set, that’s hard to push that beyond your recovery time.”

Asked if it was more in the 10-day, two-week range, Montgomery said, “If it’s his decision or my decision, yes it is. I’m begging doctors every day.”

Montgomery did say definitively that Marchand would not be traveling with the team to Columbus after Thursday’s game for Friday’s game against the Blue Jackets.


Marchand is attempting to come back from surgery on both hips and has been a full participant in practice for a couple of weeks now. He was upbeat when speaking with reporters Wednesday.

“Getting closer, for sure,” said Marchand. “Every time I get out there with the full team and do the full team practices, it’s different. I can see my timing and stuff is still off, but every day I’m getting closer.”

That timing won’t fully return until he plays in games, he said.

“You’re going to need games to get it to where it needs to be,” said Marchand. “You can replicate it in practice, but once you get in a game, it’s completely different. But even just catching up in practice, it takes a little bit of time. We’re playing a lot more this year in October than we have and it’s cutting into team practices, which is great for the group but tough for the guys who aren’t playing.”

Marchand said that he’s feeling better than he has in years.

“My range of motion is awesome. I’m really happy with how I feel coming back and figuring all that out, and I’m very happy with the pain as well,” said Marchand. “It’s been six or seven years since I played without pain in my legs and groin and hips and stuff, so it’s a treat to not have to worry about that moving forward.”


As for his strength?

“It’s coming back,” he said. “It’s definitely not 100 percent where I’d like it to be but I feel great. But I guess I’m nitpicking at this point. I would like to feel like I would at the end of a normal summer. And I’m close to that, but I’m not quite where I want.”

Aside from feeding the competitive drive that makes Marchand who he is, there is no need to rush him back. The Bruins are 6-1 and playing well. He acknowledged as much.

“It’s little bit of a double-edged sword,” said Marchand. “You want to be a part of the team’s success, but it’s very easy to take the time you need to get back when the team is playing the way they are. If we were 1-6, it would be a completely different story. I probably would have been back a month ago.”

Asked if he thought Thursday was a possibility, Marchand said, “I’m trying to push every day, but that’s not up to me. We’ll see.”

THE NEAR RETURN of Marchand is great news for the Bruins, but it does add an air of tension. The Bruins are at the 23-man roster limit and, after Jakub Lauko was sent down on Tuesday, are out of players who are waiver exempt. The Bruins did not put anybody on waivers on Wednesday, but moves are coming eventually, whether by waivers or a trade. Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic were the extra forwards in Wednesday’s practice while the Bruins are up to eight healthy defensemen.

While every organization wants to create internal competition, Montgomery didn’t try to put a smiley face on the current situation.

“That part usually isn’t a good thing, just being honest,” he said. “Human nature is, everyone knows there’s a 23-man roster and when you come to the rink, people count heads. But you’re pros. It’s the one thing that I don’t think people realize, is how consuming that can be at times. You’ve got to be pros, you’ve got to come to work, you’re getting well paid. We all understand that. You’ve got a job to do. Do your job. Right down the street, no one does it better than the Patriots. But there’s a humanistic part where people are going to wonder what’s going to happen when 63 gets back. What’s going to happen when (Charlie McAvoy) gets back? We don’t control those things and those players especially don’t control those things. They’ve got to worry about making sure they do the best they can to help the Boston Bruins day to day.”

IN GOAL: Montgomery said he’s leaning toward starting Jeremy Swayman against the Red Wings.

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