BOSTON, MA - Four months ago, on December 30, a disheartened Dennis Seidenberg stood in the locker room of the Bruins' practice rink, speaking with reporters about the season-ending ACL/MCL tear in his right knee that would require surgery.
"Right now, I’m in good spirits, but I think it will start once I have the surgery and it’s going to be everyday rehab when it’s going to start getting tough," Seidenberg had said. "There’s going to be ups and downs but I'll be prepared for it and stay positive."
The expected recovery time was estimated at 6-8 months.
On April 8, Seidenberg began skating on his own at the same practice rink. Off and on for weeks, he and Adam McQuaid would hit the ice with Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides going through the necessary recovery steps, building strength, and taking it a day at a time. They would filter off the ice long before the team filtered on for practice.
Seidenberg is still amidst that process, but now he gets the encouragement of doing it on the ice with his teammates.
On April 21, the trainers and Head Coach Claude Julien had the defenseman participate in the team's light optional skate. It consisted of simple drills, and no contact. "For encouragement reasons," Julien had said.
On Tuesday (April 29), as the Bruins began preparing for their second round series against Montreal, Seidenberg got to take part in the team's practice at TD Garden. No contact, of course. But you couldn't miss his smile - and rampant sound of T-Blades - on the ice. His teammates were certainly glad to see him, too.
"It's great to see. It's always - it gives you an emotional lift to see your teammate battling like he's been battling, just to be better, and obviously he's been doing that for a while, so it's nice to see him back out there," Patrice Bergeron said following the practice. "I don't what the timeline is there, but [it's nice] just to see him."
Seidenberg would have started skating eventually before next season, as part of his rehab process, but Julien has said that he's "maybe even a little ahead of the curve because of his conditioning and how strong he was even before that injury."
GM Peter Chiarelli has deemed him out for the playoffs, and the Bruins are not counting on a return.
Still, seeing him out there on the ice just four months after the injury is an encouraging sign for him, both physically and mentally as a player.
"I think they are happy to see him come on the ice with him," Julien said on Tuesday from TD Garden. "But everyone is focused on playoffs here and he’s just skating with us and doing everything that has no contact with it."
"So it’s more to get him out of boredom - skating on his own with just another player - so it gives him the opportunity to make some plays and passes with a little bit of traffic around him, too. So we thought it was a good time for him."
"He is strong enough with his skating that he can jump to that level right now."
During battling drills, Seidenberg spent some time hanging near the bench, before Assistant Coach Geoff Ward summoned him over to the blueline, to help rim in pucks for the drill.
When practice wrapped up, he joined in the full team stretch at center ice, led by Zdeno Chara - something Seidenberg hasn't had the opportunity to do in a while.
'Do you question whether he's human at times?' a reporter asked Bergeron in the locker room, after the skate.
"I've questioned that before the injury, anyways," the center laughed. "So it's been a while since I've been wondering that."
"He's definitely a guy that's a tremendously hard worker and it pays off when you see him doing stuff like he's been doing in his career, but also coming back so fast from that injury is pretty amazing."
The recovery continues for Seidenberg, but at least he gets to do it alongside his teammates now.