In light of the embarrassing loss to the Hurricanes last night, Bruins center and alternate captain Chris Kelly just skated his first full practice with the team. In case you forgot, he broke his femur on a terribly awkward fall against the Dallas Stars back in November:
Kelly was meant to miss the rest of the season, and I guess he really has, but the recent news is that he MIGHT be back for the playoffs, if the Bruins survive that long. Regardless of whether he sees the lineup this season or next, the fact of the matter is he’s recovering well and far ahead of schedule. When he joined the full practice, he skated on the third line and alternated at center with Max Talbot, so he's right in the thick of things and not just popping in on random drills.
Boston has a lot of issues that have been exposed this season, and two of those issues are depth in the lineup and a consistent effort from everyone on the bench. Kelly can bring both of those things to the team.
The general feeling about Kelly is that he was overpaid by Peter Chiarelli, and with a $3 million cap hit in years of tight cap space, he could be. The idea of him being an unrestricted free agent isn’t good either if the Bruins are hoping to keep him, and unless he takes a discount, the Bs will be in a tight spot with what to do with him.
Because the price of Kelly isn’t appealing to the eye, his value is often overlooked. On paper he is, for the most part, an incredibly average player. He’s not really the same guy that he was when he was competing for the Selke, but the flashes of his brilliance can come out when it’s most needed.
Numbers aside, he’s just as relied on as Bergeron is. When he first went down, Brick and Jack talked about the impact of Kelly’s injury. They both said that when it comes to someone to rely on in tight situations (more defensively than offensively), Kelly and Bergeron were the two guys to pick between. He can block, win important face-offs, shut someone down and kill penalties. The team knows that, and that’s why he skated in the lineup during practice.
The team needed some sort of spark, and maybe seeing Kelly skating around gave them that. Not only that, but having his veteran leadership presence to maybe help light a fire under this team isn't a bad thing, either.