SPORTS-HKN-BRUINS-FLYERS-GET

The Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron (37) reaches for the puck in front of Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Martin Jones (35) during a Nov. 20 game in Philadelphia. The Bruins have their captain back from COVID protocols this week.

The ever-lurking COVID has thrown the NHL’s season off-kilter. It has scuttled the league’s involvement in the Beijing Olympics and the schedule-makers now have to find landing spots for a host of postponed games, including six Bruin contests.

But if you’re a Bruins fan, the good news is that if any team could have used a reboot, it is yours. By the time the league decided to pause the B’s season after their loss in Long Island, they were losing players on a daily basis which in turn prevented them from building off what should have been two big wins in Alberta.

Now they have an opportunity to reset. With Taylor Hall returning to practice on Monday, the B’s are just have two players in protocol, Brandon Carlo and Charlie Coyle, and there is hope that they can get Carlo back before the week is over.

The B’s next scheduled game — their first since the loss to the Islanders on Dec. 16 — is a New Year’s Day matinee at the Garden against the Buffalo Sabres, which gives them a week of nipping and tucking their game. Coach Bruce Cassidy said he’ll get feedback from the players on whether to take a day or two off later in the week but sounded excited to be able to hold what he called “a mini-training camp” this week. So far, the players are on board with that.

“They’re excited themselves to get out there. Don’t forget, these guys are used to coming to work six days a week in the winter,” said Cassidy. “It’s not like we want to get away from our families, we just want to get back to work and go in and do what we do best. I’m sure the players are excited about that right now.’”

There may come a time soon when they’ll be longing for a day off here and there. Having played only 26 games, they have until the end of April to jam in 56 games unless the league extends the season. In the month of January, the B’s will have just one two-day break. Otherwise, they’re playing every other night, with two sets of back-to-backs thrown in.

One of the B’s beefs in the early part of the season is that they played so infrequently that they couldn’t get in a rhythm. But as long as COVID allows, the B’s will be looking at a lot of games in a short span of time. And just outside the playoff bracket, they need to be better than they have been.

“For us, it wasn’t major breakdowns one after the other. I just thought there were key moments in games where we let points get away because the other teams outplayed us in those moments, out-executed us. Made the right play at the right time to swing the game,” said Cassidy. “Those are things we’ll obviously have to correct in the games going forward when we do get back to play. This week, we’re using it to prepare for that stretch, get some of your conditioning back. I don’t know how much you can get back when COVID is still a bit of an unknown in the recovery, but we’re going to work on it as best we can. Because there isn’t going to be a lot of practice time going forward in teams of consecutive days. It’ll be here and there, it’ll be about fine-tuning some things. The way we look at it, every athlete wants to play. For us, the amount of games we have, guys get excited about, because they want to play. It’s just when you’re in the soup, the thick of it, the recovery does become important.”

Captain Patrice Bergeron returned to practice on Sunday after being placed in protocol on Dec. 15. He said he had mild symptoms with the virus, mostly fatigue, and was able to start working out after four days or so.

“We have to make the best of it, resting and making sure we re-charge the batteries and making sure we’re ready for the rest of the year,” said Bergeron, adding he felt surprisingly good upon his return.

“It’s going to be a lot of games in not that many days as we all know. We have to be able to use that to our advantage if we can. Obviously some guys got hit with COVID and some guys felt it a little more than others. That being said, we were able to rest, spend some time at home and recharge the battery mentally and physically and be ready for the next stretch, which will be a pretty big one.”

Rask ‘pain-free,’ said Cassidy

Tuukka Rask was back at it in Monday’s practice, taking his reps with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. He still has to be medically cleared and a contract must be hammered out, but he’s looking a lot like his old self. Cassidy was chatting with him at the end of practice.

“It was more a casual conversation about the process he went through, because I had my hip replaced so I was curious to see how it was for him in terms of rehab and pain tolerance and how he feels now and what the biggest difference is. Is it just being pain-free, if he has any more mobility, etc? “ said Cassidy. “And the feedback was, yeah, he is pain-free and it allows him to play a lot more comfortably. He hasn’t lost any mobility. That’s a great thing if it’s worked out for him. He did lose time, obviously. I know last year he went through some tough days. If he can eliminate those and get back to where he was, it’ll be a win for everybody.”

If called, Bergeron would have gone to Olympics

In the last few weeks, Bergeron had expressed some concerns about going to the Olympics with the COVID surges and the uncertainty of quarantines. But if picked by team Canada, the two-time gold medalist said on Monday he would have gone.

“It would have been my last chance to experience it. I was there twice, I was able to live it. I feel for the guys who haven’t had a chance and this might have been their last chance to go. I really do. It’s disappointing as an athlete, as a competitor. You want to be a part of those events,” said Bergeron.

“I was definitely thinking about it and had some question marks about going over with what’s going on in the world with the outbreaks and all that and leaving my family behind. But I had a discussion with my wife and it was my last chance and I wanted to be a part of it.”

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