Zdeno Chara practices with Bruins

BOSTON -- Bruins captain Zdeno Chara practiced with the team Tuesday morning for the first time since tearing a ligament in his left knee Oct. 23.

Chara began skating on his own prior to the team's recent 1-3-0 road trip to the West Coast and joined his teammates on the TD Garden ice upon their return. He skated hard during the session and was involved in battle drills.

"I'm excited to be back with the team. Being able to skate is something I've worked really hard for," Chara said. "Obviously the Bruins organization, doctors, medical staff, training staff, everybody did a great job to put me where I am today."

It's possible that Chara, who is also sporting an impressive playoff-style beard, could return to the lineup Thursday against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins are 11-7-1 in 19 games without Chara.

"Right now I can say I feel more optimistic about Zee that he will [return Thursday]," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

Also, center David Krejci returned to practice and was centering the top line Tuesday with Milan Lucic and Loui Eriksson. Krejci has missed 17 games this season, including the past eight, with a lower-body injury.

Krejci has not been cleared to play, and Julien didn't know whether if he would be available for Thursday's game.

Forwards Carl Soderberg, Daniel Paille and Simon Gagne did not practice Tuesday morning.

Julien said Soderberg and Paille missed practice due to a virus, and Gagne is on a personal leave of absence.