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Nathan Horton practices for the first time as a Blue Jacket

by Ryan Dittrick / Columbus Blue Jackets

EDMONTON - The Blue Jackets had a surprise participant at Monday afternoon’s optional practice at Rexall Place.

Four months after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder, Nathan Horton was back on the ice, skating in full gear alongside his teammates for the first time.

“It was great,” Horton said, sporting a grin the size of West Edmonton Mall. “I’ve been skating a little bit these past few days, but it’s nice to be back out there with the guys.”

Horton is still experiencing a fair bit of pain, but the recovery process—while lengthy—is going well. He had the surgery back on July 17 and was told he would be out of commission for up to six months.

AUDIO: Horton speaks to the media after practice

With that in mind, Horton could be ready to go at some point in early to mid-December.

“I hope I’m back then, but I’m still feeling a bit of pain and don’t have my full range of motion yet,” he said. “I don't know when [the pain] is going to go away. I wake up every morning, hoping, but it’s still sore.

“It’s taking a long time, but I knew that coming in. It’s been tough having to watch. I still have a lot of fun at the rink, but it's always more fun when you're on the ice.” 

The 6-foot-2, 229-pound forward skated for nearly an hour, dedicating much of the practice to footwork, stickhandling and rapid-fire target practice with assistant coach Dan Hinote. 

Horton still hasn’t been cleared for any significant weight training, but small, lightweight dumbbells are now a part of his daily routine. Once the pain dissipates and he can begin scheduling more intense upper-body workouts, he’ll have a better idea of when he’ll be eligible to return.

For now, there’s absolutely no rush. Horton has suffered through shoulder injuries before (torn rotator cuff, torn labrum and dislocated bicep tendon) and has little interest in having this latest battle develop into a chronic issue.

“If I don't feel 100 percent, there's no point (in rushing/coming back),” Horton said. “I don't ever want it to happen again. I want to get it right so I can come back, help out and be around the guys.

After spending the past three seasons with the Boston Bruins, Horton,28, signed a seven-year, $37 million contract with the Blue Jackets back on July 5.

The winger’s debut has been on hold ever since, but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm.

“We've had a couple tough games this season, but we have a good team and we're only going to get better,” Horton said. “I love watching them and I love being around them. They're all great guys and that's all you can ask for as a teammate.”

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