Adam McQuaid is still skating on his own as he works his way back from a shoulder strain suffered on March 11 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the rugged, hard-hitting defenseman may return to full practice next week.

The Bruins defenseman was expected to miss up to six weeks when the injury first occurred according to estimates put out by coach Claude Julien, but it appears his recovery has taken a turn for the better. McQuaid has skated on his own for the last four days and appeared to be testing the strength of the shoulder in drills with the Bruins training staff on Friday morning.

“He skated earlier before we practiced,” said Claude Julien of McQuaid. “We’ll probably see him join us when we get back [from Montreal] next week.”

In his place Julien has been mixing and matching the defensemen pairings with Matt Bartkowski now in the lineup with a whole new level of confidence in his skating ability and outlet pass-making. But the Bruins have clearly missed McQuaid’s 6-foot-5 size and strength around the net, and there have been plenty of banged up bodies along Boston’s blue line: Johnny Boychuk was the latest when he took a clearing shot to the mouth and ended up requiring six stitches above his upper lip after the puck ripped open his face.