BOSTON (CBS) — Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy has been sidelined for nearly two months with lingering symptoms of a concussion.

While the 20-year-old blue liner still doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return to game action, he made a big step in the right direction on Monday. McAvoy was a full participant in practice, and he did so without a no-contact jersey.

“Big step forward,” McAvoy said after the session at Warriors Ice Arena in Brighton. “I thought it went really well… I feel like I just had a great workout and I’m feeling optimistic.”

For the first time in a while, McAvoy was able to actually play some hockey. He said he felt pretty good after, and even stuck around for another 20-25 minutes on the ice after the session ended.

“There are certain drills I can’t do when I have the red [jersey on]. The days have been adding up and, unfortunately, I’ve been kind of getting reminded of it. It’s been over a month now. But to get in there and partake in 3-on-3’s, full ice drills and 5-on-5’s down low — just hockey. Those are the things I miss. I was very happy to get out there today,” he said.

The big question on everyone’s mind is when will McAvoy be able to take the ice for a game. Despite Monday’s promising return to practice, a return to game action is still murky. McAvoy said he won’t be back until he feels 100 percent and all the doctors and trainers agree that he’s ready. As head coach Bruce Cassidy explained following Monday’s practice, McAvoy needs to feel comfortable with getting hit again until the team will entertain his return.

“He actually looked pretty good. I guess for him he’s going to have to get used to bodies around him and banging. Try to simulate some of that in practice. Some of the 5-on-5 drills will have that. The more he gets comfortable with that the closer he’ll be,” said Cassidy. “It’s good news. It’s probably the last step when he’s comfortable with contact and bodies around him and then be ready to go.”

McAvoy has missed 19 games with his concussion and likely won’t suit up during Boston’s two-game road trip in Florida, which begins Tuesday night with a game against the Panthers. But McAvoy will make the trip with his teammates and can’t wait to be back around the team.

Boston has gone 10-6-3 during McAvoy’s absence, and he’s just one of the handful of defenseman currently on the shelf with various injuries. The team’s inspired play during his absence makes McAvoy even hungrier to return to action.

“I just want to come back and put myself in a position to play great hockey and really help this team. They’ve been doing so well without a bunch of us and to see them play has been encouraging,” he said. “I’m so proud to be a Bruin and can’t wait to get back, because I feel like I can help these guys, especially the position we’re at defensively.

“But not until I feel good and obviously until the doctors and trainers all agree it’s the next step.”

In his seven games this season, McAvoy has one goal and five assists.


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