Taylor Hall is getting pretty close to joining the Boston Bruins lineup for the first time since late February.
The veteran forward suffered a lower body injury in a Feb. 25 win over the Canucks in Vancouver. He has not played since, and the B's have posted a 13-4 record in his absence.
Hall, who had been practicing in a red non-contact jersey of late, was a normal practice participant Wednesday at third-line left wing alongside Charlie Coyle and Tyler Bertuzzi. Hall and Bertuzzi have not yet played together. The B's acquired Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings on March 2.
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Could we see Hall back on the ice as soon as Thursday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden?
"I don't know about (Thursday) to be honest. I'm not going to say for sure he's not, but it's leaning that way," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters Wednesday. "But he's starting to check all the boxes. We're starting to get him into game rhythm again through practice. We'll be able to practice today and Friday. I think he's doubtful for (Thursday), but I'm not going to completely rule him out. He's getting closer."
Hall is excited to be close to returning. It's always tough to miss games, and it's even more difficult when your team is winning at a historic pace.
"It's nice to be skating with the guys," Hall said after Wednesday's practice. "There's still some steps and conversations I have to have before I’m fully playing. We’ll probably know that by (Thursday) morning when I'm going to play, whether it's tomorrow or whenever. Just taking it step by step in process with the organization and the medical staff."
Montgomery said it would be "ideal" for Hall to get a few games in before the first round of the playoffs. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Boston has five more regular season games remaining.
"That's the plan. Like I said, don't know for sure yet," Hall said. "But whether it's the start of the playoffs or tomorrow or whatever, I'm ready to go. I'm ready to play whenever that is. It's exciting around here. Everyone knows the expectations that are on the outside and what we believe in this room. It's a lot of fun to re-join the group. ... If I do get a couple games (before the playoffs), that's great. But if not, we'll play it by ear kind of."
A third line of Hall, Coyle and Bertuzzi is an example of the Bruins' extraordinary depth up front. This would be a first or second line on a lot of teams. Hall is excited about the opportunity to play alongside Bertuzzi for the first time.
"Tyler has been a really good addition to our team," Hall said. "He sees the ice really well. I didn't quite know what type of player he was before he got here, but he makes plays and keeps plays alive all over the ice. If that's who I'm playing with, whenever I'm back, that's a really good guy to inject on that line."