Wilmington, MA --
Asked about his first full day of skating since sustaining a knee injury in practice on October 30th, Boston Bruins goalie Manny Fernandez just smiled.
"I'm excited," was his quiet answer. "It's tough (to be) out and not be 'part of the team' is tough and…I have been waiting for this moment for a while, now.
"It was nice to get out there and see some shots."
And his knee feels better?
"I am cleared to play," he said leading to some speculation that his knee is not 100%. However, he was clearly doing well on the ice, stretching and kicking and sliding and saving nearly everything that came his way. And throughout the entire session, the Bruins coaching staff seemed focused on his side-to-side movement and getting as many shots on Fenandez as possible.
"I'm trying to get my game back," continued Fernandez. "I need to work on different situations. Obviously…these four days are going to be hard work and today (I just) got my feet wet, a little bit. We started (before) practice. I am a guy who likes to work hard in the first place and this is going to be 'double' as hard. (Thankfully,) I tried to stay in shape while I was out, as much as I could."
Bruins head coach Claude Julien was pleased with what he saw.
"Well, he definitely felt better (Monday), so we are going to go day-by-day with him, but obviously he has been cleared to practice so it's a good sign for us," said Julien.
It was, indeed, a terrific sign for the Bruins. While Tim Thomas
has been spectacular at times and has, almost single handedly, kept the B's in most games, Timmy is still human. Successful playoff runs in the NHL need to be supported by two goalies.
"Hopefully we get him back into playing (shape)," said Julien. "We have Bob Essensa here to help him out.
"And we'll have him ready (and) sooner than later we'll have him in there.
"But that's been the goal for us -- to hopefully have two goaltenders that can do the job," he said.
And Fernandez has also played at a high level during his career.
"We know Manny is capable of doing it as well," said Coach. "Our schedule gets tougher as the season goes along and you have those back to back games…and it is going to be important, down the read, to have our two guys going."