Barring any setbacks Tuesday, it's looking like Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford will get the go-ahead to play Wednesday night against Boston. Rob Niedermayer is not far behind. All three practiced hard Monday and got through the team's hour-long workout in HSBC Arena.
Stafford was back on his line with Luke Adam and Jason Pominville, with Mark Mancari returned to Portland. Coach Lindy Ruff said he wanted to see more from Stafford but said he understood the winger may have been holding back after missing 14 of the last 15 games with a shoulder problem.
Connolly skated in a non-contact jersey but looked better than he has at any point since suffering his groin injury in practice Nov. 22.
"I'm right there," Connolly said. "Conditioning is there, strength is there. When they're ready for me, I'm ready to go. Wednesday is a strong possiblity to me. In the end, it comes down to a coach's decision but that's what I'm shooting for."
"Today was meant to be a physical battle day that we could do some evaluating with those guys," Ruff said. "There's parts of it I liked. Hopefully they can both answer the call."
Niedermayer, who had minor knee surgery last month, has had most of the swelling in the knee go away and Ruff said he is also close to returning. Jochen Hecht left practice after rolling his ankle but Ruff was not concerned about that issue. Shaone Morrisonn (concussion) has yet to resume exercise.