bergeron_patrice_hockeycardBOSTON — For the first time in a while, the Boston Bruins are scheduled to have three key cogs back in their line-up tonight against Washington at TD Banknorth¬† Garden.

Most notably, center Patrice Bergeron is ready to rejoin the team tonight for the first time since he suffered a concussion Dec. 20 against Carolina. Defenseman Andrew Ference (out since Nov. 13 with a broken foot) and winger Milan Lucic (out since Jan. 6 with an upper-body injury) are also slated to face off with the Caps in the battle between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

Bergeron found out during a meeting with the doctors after yesterday’s practice that he’d been cleared to make a full return. Then he just had to coax his coach to let go of the leash.

“Well, that I was feeling good and I’ve practicing for a while and I don’t think I’ll get anymore contact in practice,” said Bergeron today about his argument to head coach Claude Julien.

Bergeron’s return comes at a perfect time because there’s a strong chance Michael Ryder won’t be available because of flu-like symptoms. Ryder didn’t practice yesterday or skate this morning.

“We’re actually looking forward to having him back in the line-up. He’s feeling good and we’re glad to have him back,” said Julien about Bergeron after calling Ryder “unlikely” to play against Washington.¬† “And I think, under the circumstances, this is real great and positive news for our hockey club.”

Bergeron skated as a right winger on a line with Blake Wheeler and center David Krejci during this morning’s pregame skate. Most importantly, mentally he’s ready to go because he kept his expectations low all during his recovery period.

“I wasn’t expecting anything so that’s why I told you guys I didn’t know (yesterday),” he explained. “I didn’t want to get disappointed. I guess that was a good strategy. I’m happy this morning. All last night I was happy too. And it feels good coming to the rink and knowing I can do everything.”
With Ryder out and the other three back, the Bruins have 11 forwards and seven defenseman available. Julien said in all likelihood that’s what he’d go with tonight.

I’m pretty sure this would be the first time Julien dressed seven D since coming to the Bruins. And Julien didn’t rule out seeing rookie defenseman Matt Hunwick up front a bit.

The rest of the lines this morning featured: