WILMINGTON, Mass. - Simply by taking the ice, Patrice Bergeron gave his Bruins teammates a lift Monday even though he won't suit up for their playoff opener.
As Boston prepares for its first post-season appearance since 2003-04, the centre was cleared for contact in practice for the first time since suffering a serious concussion in October. The Bruins open their best-of-seven series against the Canadiens on Thursday night in Montreal.
"He was cleared for full contact," said general manager Peter Chiarelli, who added that Bergeron won't play in Game 1. "We'll see how he responds. And then, at some point, we'll make a determination."
After skating with the team in practice, Bergeron came out for about 45 minutes to work on shooting and puck-handling drills with assistant coach Doug Houda.
He began to practise last month but could only hit his teammates, not be hit.
"I'll ask the guys to kind of be pushing me around a little bit because obviously, if I get back into a game, Montreal's not going to give me any favours," Bergeron said. "I obviously need to be smart with this and feel good in practice and be honest with myself."
His teammates already feel better.
"He's a big part of this franchise," centre Marc Savard said. "For him to be out there and skating around, it's a big motivating factor for sure. But, in the same sense, we want him to feel comfortable and get him back 100 per cent."
Savard and Bergeron were considered the Bruins top two playmakers going into the season. But Savard, their leading scorer, missed the last seven games of the season with a broken bone in his back after being hit by Montreal's Steve Begin on March 22.
Savard hopes to resume practising Tuesday, but Boston is without another top scorer, Chuck Kobasew, who is out 4-8 weeks with a fracture in his lower left leg.
Bergeron doesn't know when he'll play in a game.
"I have no idea," he said. "There's a not a game that I pinpointed that I want to choose. I'm not going to play on Thursday, that's for sure. After that, it's up in the air and see how I feel in practice."
Bergeron was knocked unconscious in his 10th game of the season on Oct. 27 when Philadelphia defenceman Randy Jones hit him from behind and smashed his face into the glass.
"Right now, he can't play," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We're not going to get ahead of ourselves and I need to really deal with the players I have."
Glen Metropolit and Glen Murray missed practice Monday but are expected to be ready for Game 1.