The good news for Paul Mara: the Red Sox are in first place after their season-opening win in Japan this morning.
The better news for Mara: he makes his return to the lineup tonight after missing a month because of facial injuries sustained Feb. 23 in Buffalo.
Of course, don’t start celebrating yet. Mara is back in only because Michal Rozsival is out with what Tom Renney is calling an “upper leg strain.” The coach wasn’t overly concerned about his No. 1 defenseman, who tweaked his leg a few days ago and re-aggravated it again yesterday. It sounds like his absence may only be limited to tonight, and Rozsival was already busy working out in the team’s fitness room. But it’s not something the coach wants to leave to chance.
Some other notes:
<li>Mara will be back in a full cage, looking not unlike he should be at defense for BU (or UNH) in the NCAA playoffs. He’ll wear the cage most likely for two more weeks.Â Look for him to start the game with Marek Malik, while Christian Backman will stay with Marc Staal.
<li>Mara will also take Rozsival’s place alongside Backman on the power play.Â The new power play configurations have that pairing with the first line of Martin Straka, Jaromir Jagr, and Brandon Dubinsky. On the other power play, Brendan Shanahan will be with Chris Drury and Sean Avery, along with Fedor Tyutin and Dan Girardi. Petr Prucha is back in the lineup tonight, but is not expected to see any power play time.
<li>Scott Gomez rode the bike again today and showed some progress. Neither he nor Renney has ruled out Thursday against the Devils.
<li>Renney acknowledged one of the reasons he hasn’t called anyone up from Hartford is he can go back to some combinations that have worked in the past against Philly (Prucha scored a goal against the Flyers Nov. 15, on an assist from Drury). But the other consideration is that no one down there has made a “lights out” case to be called up of late.
More in a bit…