Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien told the press on Monday that forward Loui Eriksson will not lace up his skates at any point in this calendar week. Not a bad precaution in spite of the fact that the recent recipient of a concussive hit by the Buffalo Sabres' John Scott was remarkably able to visit the team that morning.
Assuming his health continues to go nowhere besides a progressive direction, Eriksson may generate an itch to restructure Boston's line chart without fail for the first full week of November. The earliest he could conceivably resume game participation is this coming Tuesday when the Bruins begin a five-game homestand against none other than his previous employers, the Dallas Stars.
Still, no matter how he looks when he takes his next round of serious strides, next Tuesday will mark a mere 13 nights since his injury. For the team as a whole, it will begin a week-long pattern of games every two nights, culminating in a Nov. 11 matinee with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The most prudent approach, both for Eriksson's sake and the team's, would thus be to restrict him to a week-plus of progressively intensive practice activity. Afterwards, he will be exactly three weeks removed from the hit by the time the Bruins have another set of consecutive non-game days on Nov. 12 and 13.
But even more to the point, it will mark barely two full months since he began his first training camp as a Boston player. When any new face sustains health trouble this early in a season, confidence can be harder to maintain—let alone build—upon restoring normalcy than it is for an established staple on the team.
Furthermore, leading up to his injury, Eriksson was making a so-so first impression compared to that of his fellow top-six right-wing offseason acquisition, Jarome Iginla. The stark contrast in early productivity between the Iginla-David Krejci-Milan Lucic line and that of Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand is one indicator.
Even if he is deemed to be in pristine health come next Sunday or Monday, Eriksson will have stunted his acclimation to the Bruins system with his week-and-a-half away from on-ice activity. To hasten him back into competition at a time when games are coming in droves may prove counterintuitive to the implicit intention of applying an offensive booster.
Conversely, holding him back until after the next pair of consecutive off days would, mathematically speaking, recompense all of his lost time. This would mean 10 or 11 straight days of participation in practices, morning skates and possibly some pregame warm-ups near the end.
By Wednesday, Nov. 13, that would amount to a de facto bonus training camp that follows 10 or 11 days of recuperation. The subsequent best-case scenario would be a hungry, top-six striker eager to uncork more carbonation over three games in four nights spanning Nov. 14-17.
Granted, including this week's Wednesday night visit to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Bruins have played three full games without Eriksson's services. The first two saw no tangible cultivation from any unit other than the top troika of Krejci, Lucic and Iginla. One game in particular, namely last Saturday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils, was a bona fide clunker.
Still, even with his celestial skill set, Eriksson likely would not have made a substantive impact on any of those matches because of where he is in his Boston tenure. The fact that his next round of strides will be on the heels of rest and recuperation compounds the need for unconditional patience.
This can be made subject to change, but for now, Eriksson's targeted return date should be Nov. 14 versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Only in the event of consecutive spotless practice runs on his part and/or alarmingly poor performances by other forwards should he receive consideration for Nov. 7, 9 or 11.
Naturally, ensuring a 100 percent bill of health for Eriksson ought to come first. That is the first step and it could be completed by the conclusion of this week.
The second step should involve gelling (or re-gelling) him with a given pair of linemates over a string of consecutive practice days. Because he is still presumably learning the aspects of his new club and environment, each step should receive a roughly equal window of time.