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Horton Practices, Could Play in Game 2

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

CHICAGO, IL - When the Bruins hit the ice at the United Center on Friday afternoon for practice the day before Game Two, Nathan Horton joined his teammates. He didn't appear to have any limitations.

Horton had left the first overtime of Game One and did not return for the rest of the 4-3 triple overtime loss to Chicago. He's been labeled as "day-to-day" and remained that way Friday, though he was on the ice skating.

"We'll have to make a decision on him tomorrow," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien told media following the team's practice. "It was encouraging to see him out there today. If he feels good tomorrow, he's in the lineup, simple as that."

Horton's teammates were relieved to see the right wing out on the ice as well.

"Definitely better than not. Better than not, that's for sure," said Shawn Thornton. "We all hope he's available. He's one of our better hockey players. He's been amazing in these playoffs. If he can go, we'll be happy to have him."

Horton assisted on Milan Lucic's opening goal of the Stanley Cup Final in Game One and currently leads the NHL with an astonishing plus-22 rating. In scoring, he sits second in the league below his centerman, David Krejci (23 points) with seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 17 games.

The winger took turns with Tyler Seguin slotting in on the right, with Milan Lucic on his left wing and David Krejci at center.

"Yeah, he looked good. I'm not too concerned about how he was today, though, more about whatever he needs tomorrow," said Thornton. "He's a professional, he's been doing it long enough, I'm sure he got what he needed and he'll be ready to go tomorrow, no doubt."

Horton's longtime linemate was also pleased to see him to join the team for practice.

"Obviously it's a positive sign that he was able to practice today, and he's feeling pretty good, and hopefully he'll be in the lineup for us [Saturday]," said Milan Lucic.

"It's obviously a positive thing that he was able to come out and skate here today and he's going to do everything in his power to play. Obviously, he wants to play."

If Horton is, in fact, ready to go come Game Two, there won't be any slighting of his minutes. If he's good to go, he's good to go.

"Absolutely. If he's in tomorrow, it's about him playing," said Julien. "If he can't play and I just use him once in a while, might as well put somebody in that can play the minutes. If he's in, he's in where he belongs. I'll be very straightforward with you guys on that. If he's in, he's going to be in his position where he plays."

What Horton Brings

The stats alone show what Horton adds to the Bruins' lineup, but the power forward - like Lucic - has a presence on the ice that is very unique. Not many players in the NHL can blend the size and speed quite like the duo that flanks the quiet creativity of Krejci.

Horton's only postseason play has come with the Bruins, but this is the first time he could have the chance to suit up in all games of the Stanley Cup Final. His run in 2011 was cut short due to concussion, and he missed the 2012 playoffs for the same reason.

Regardless of how many games he's played in throughout the past few seasons, Horton always elevates his game in the postseason. This year, he was even more excited, after having to sit on the sidelines last April.

"Yeah, he seems pretty excited about this time of year. He's in a good mood, he's happy. Before the last game he said how excited he was to get going – as is everyone," said Shawn Thornton. "He's a special talent. When he's going, he's not an easy body to stop."

"Nathan’s been great for us," said forward Daniel Paille. "He’s up there in points and he has done a lot of great things. You can tell his skill, especially during playoff time, but he is definitely a key player for us and we can definitely use him."

Bruins' Depth Leaves Options

If Horton isn't able to be inserted into the lineup, besides Seguin possibly slotting in on the top line, Coach Julien has options to add to tinker with his "bottom six" forwards.

The line of Brad Marchand, Jaromir Jagr and Patrice Bergeron stayed intact through Friday's entire practice and would mostly likely be the one line to stay the same come Saturday night, if Horton is out.

Two options to come in are Carl Soderberg and Jordan Caron. Friday in practice, Soderberg, Caron, Rich Peverley and Daniel Paille all took turns rotating in on the third line.

Soderberg, obviously, has only been with the Bruins since April, coming over from the Swedish Elite League. He suited up in six regular season games with the B's. Caron, on the other hand, has played 88 NHL games with the Bruins through the past three seasons, along with two playoffs games in 2012 against Washington.

Both would bring a different skill set to the lineup.

"[I've seen] enough to know that if need be, we can put them in the lineup," said Julien. "Two different players. Jordan is a power forward, excels along the walls, front of the net. He's gotten better at taking pucks to the net."

"Soderberg is more of a playmaker, more of a natural centerman than a winger, but can play both. He's got good size. He's got good skills."

"I said that at one point, it's unfortunate that he didn't come to us maybe a month earlier just to get a better feel. But having said that, I would have no hesitation at all, if need be, to put either one of those guys in. They're guys that are capable of stepping in and helping out. That's why we call them depth players. They're capable of playing in these Stanley Cup Final."

"If I get to that situation, I'll be more than happy to share who it's going to be and put them in the lineup."

Coach Julien's players are confident in their depth as well. Kaspars Daugavins showed how ready the healthy scratches are if they need to step into the lineup, when Gregory Campbell suffered a broken leg that wiped him out of the postseason. As we've pointed out time and time again, the three young defensemen of Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski all played a significant role in the Rangers series, when the veteran back end was depleted.

"Management's done a good job providing depth here. I think we've had the great fortune that people have stepped in and done remarkable jobs filling in, whether it was on the back end in those games or up front the last couple games," said Thornton. "I think Daugy had a really strong game last game. He had a bunch of chances. It seems like whoever is stepping in, is ready to fill in."

Hockey's Toughness

If Horton's "injury" is an indication of anything, it's that hockey players play through a number of injuries in the postseason, whether minor or even major.

"I played a season with like a torn labrum or whatever," said Thornton (rather nonchalantly), on one of the toughest injuries he's had to play through. "I guess being in a fight would be the toughest thing to get through - but not in the playoffs."

"You expect it, I guess. I do anyways," added Thornton, on guys playing through injuries. "If there is any way you can go, you go this time of year. I think everyone in this room is built the same way. I'm sure it's no different than any other hockey team. Stanley Cup Finals."

Milan Lucic, not surprisingly, had the same opinion.

"It's a part of the playoffs. Every team goes through it and they have guys playing through pain," he said. "I remember two years ago guys playing through pain as well [broken toe], so like I said it's a part of the playoffs and it goes to show guys will do anything to win."

So, how are players willing to sacrifice so much physically this time of year?

"You just have to look at the teams that have been eliminated," suggested Coach Julien. "As soon as they're eliminated, you hear all about the injuries. It's a very common thing in our sport, especially at this time of year. Nobody wants to be left out or pushed out of a lineup."

"When you look at the Stanley Cup, what it means to you, there's no doubt, you don't want to be denied that opportunity. Players, like I said, are tough in this sport. They'll play through a lot. There's some on both teams right now. You'll find out more when the series is over."

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