VANCOUVER – There was an extra furnished stall in the visiting dressing room when the Bruins reported for Tuesday's practice at Rogers Arena, the team's final formal skate before Wednesday's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Injured Boston forward Nathan Horton had a stall and most of his equipment had been hung in it by the team's training staff. Horton, who suffered a concussion after a late hit from Aaron Rome early in Game 3, won't play in Game 7, but he was a surprise visitor on the team's charter flight to Vancouver on Tuesday.
"That's something the guys wanted to do," Bruins coach Claude Julien said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the team arrived and had a quick practice at Rogers Arena. "They wanted him to be part of our group here. Until, again, the third game of the Final, he was a big contributor to our hockey club.
"If the doctors would let him, he would play tomorrow and we all know that that's the way he feels right now. He would be willing to play through what he's gone through. But we know that's not the right decision to make. But that's the way he's feeling right now. He wants to play so badly, he would be willing to play through that."
It is that dedication that drove the Bruins to make sure he had a presence in the dressing room as they play for the ultimate prize Wednesday night.
Tuesday, though, everyone was over the moon to see Horton on the plane, being his smiling, joking self.
"It was really good to see him and see him being himself," backup goalie Tuukka Rask said of Horton being on the transcontinental flight to Vancouver. "I guess he is feeling OK and that is a great thing to see. We love having him around. He's a really positive guy. He was joking around a lot – just typical Nathan Horton."
Monday night, Horton was at Game 6 at the TD Garden, a 5-2 victory by his Bruins that forced this Game 7. Cameras focused on him during the first TV timeout Monday as he stood in the Zamboni entrance. Horton quickly broke into a smile and then started waving a yellow rally towel over his head as the Garden faithful went crazy.
Not too long after, the Bruins had a 4-0 lead, scoring all the goals in a record-short span of four minutes and 14 seconds.
"You saw the reaction with him last night getting the crowd all fired up," said defenseman Andrew Ference. "He was getting a little teared up and I know the guys were talking about it and being like, 'Geez, you're making us get all teared up too.'"
Horton has had that power since arriving in a trade from Florida this season. His infectious personality quickly became part of the fabric of the team's dressing room.
"It's genuine," Ference says of the bond the team shares with Horton. "Even if he wasn't hurt, the guys would say the same things about him. He truly is a really good friend and great guy.
"We know how much it means to him. To see somebody come from obscurity in Florida that had all this potential and to find such a good fit. We're just really happy for him. He's our friend and obviously we want nothing but the best for him."