BOSTON — Barring an unforeseen occurrence between this morning and 8 p.m. tonight, Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid will return to the lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay.
McQuaid sprained his neck May 2 in the first period of Game 2 of the Bruins’ four-game sweep of Philadelphia last round.
With the Bruins winning that series and then having seven days without a game, the schedule has worked out perfectly for McQuaid to not miss that much playing time but get back in time for the best part of the year.
“I wasn’t sure when it originally happened how long I’d be out. You never know what can happen in the playoffs,” he said after he took part in Boston’s morning skate at the TD Garden. “So I’m excited to get a chance to play again. And in the conference finals, it’s going to be exciting.”
McQuaid said he feels as close to 100 percent as can be expected this time of year. The Bruins will need his size and strength to slow down a high-octane Tampa Bay offense, which features Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis among others.
“He’s a steady defenseman and he gives us the size and the toughness,” said head coach Claude Julie. “They have some big guys up front, [Ryan] Malone, Lecavalier, some of those guys that come in and grind it out. So we need some size back there and he is going to provide us with that.”
When you play McQuaid’s style of hockey, keeping it simple is a mantra. It might be more difficult to adhere to tonight, however, because the atmosphere at the Garden should be electric and McQuaid will need to to burn off the nervous energy that has built up over the last 12 days.
“I think it’s going to be important for everyone, but especially for me,” said McQuaid about keeping things simple. “It’s been a while and it feels like it’s been a while. So I just have to keep things simple, get the first few shifts out of the way and just build from there.”