- The Bruins were back to practice Tuesday at TD Garden prior to Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
Nathan Horton joined the team on the ice for the first time, since being out day-to-day with an upper-body injury after leaving the game on April 20 against Pittsburgh. Horton was reunited with Milan Lucic and David Krejci on the line sporting white jerseys.
Though the strong forward has been skating on his own, he was certainly excited to get back with his teammates - and the timing couldn't be better.
"It's nice to be out there again," Horton said following practice. "Working hard and I feel pretty good out there."
"I've been skating on my own every day, for four or five days now. Feel great."
When Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien was asked if Horton would be in the lineup Wednesday night, he said, "we’ll see how he is tomorrow before we make that decision."
In regards to the injury, it's been tough for Horton to stay out of the lineup, but he was taking the positive out of some extra rest and recovery prior to the postseason.
"Those things happen during the game. Just got to work hard. I got a little bit of a rest and just have to get ready, it's a new season now," said Horton. "This is where it counts, I think everybody knows that."
"I think it means a lot to everyone. Everyone didn't have their best season, including me. I think we're just looking forward to the new season, to the playoffs. This is when we have to be at our best."
And after missing the 2012 postseason with a concussion, Horton is reeling to get back into the playoffs. If he does get back into the lineup tomorrow, it would mark the second postseason of his career, after helping the B's all the way in 2011 with five multipoint games, and an 8-9=17 stat line with two overtime goals.
"Going through it and then sitting out last year, this is the time of year that you do want to play," said Horton. " The season definitely was hard on everyone this year, playing every other night for most of the year, but you play every night in the playoffs and still get up for the game because that's the way it is. Just excited to be back in it."
"I want to help out, I want to be a contributor," he said, on if he could help with the Bruins' scoring woes. "If I didn't feel like I was going to be able to do that, I wouldn't be here."
Horton started the season with three goals in the first six games, before finishing the season with a 13-9=22 stat line in 43 games. The offensive production wasn't consistent for his line throughout the season, but as every NHL player will say, every postseason team gets to hit refresh.
"Not our best year together, but that doesn't matter now, it's out the window. Like everyone says, it's a new start. It's Game One tomorrow."
For Horton, along with Lucic, the physical style of their game gets the team going - and his last time on the ice, it ended with the gloves being dropped with Jarome Iginla.
"I think everybody knows that. I thought he was playing really well before he was pulled out of the game," said Coach Julien on if he'd like to see Horton playing to the physical level he showed prior to sustaining the injury. "Since then, I think he’s been really excited about coming back. He skated well today, so right now if he’s good to go, I hope to see the same player that left the ice the last game he played."
"You’d have to ask him, but I think [he'll be] real excited to be back in the playoffs," said Lucic of his usual linemate Horton. "Obviously he was huge for us two years ago with what he did and the big goals that he scored and he’s looking forward to this challenge and playing against his hometown team like so many guys on our team, against the Toronto Maple Leafs."
"So he’s a big part of this hockey team. I think it showed how much we truly missed him last year against Washington and hopefully he can step up for us like he did two years ago in the playoffs."
Jagr Should be "Okay" for Tomorrow
Jaromir Jagr also rejoined the Bruins after missing Friday’s practice with flu-like symptoms and subsequently, not being available for the games on Saturday or Sunday. He was wearing the grey jersey Tuesday at practice, alongside Chris Kelly and Kaspars Daugavins.
"I think Jags is over the flu, so he should be okay," said Julien.
Jagr has 180 games of NHL playoff experience and his veteran presence would impact the B's, especially on the power play.
"I feel like if we play the best hockey that we can play, we can beat a lot of teams," said Jagr. "I’m saying it’s up to us, and we can do it. We didn’t play our best hockey the last probably 10 games. Something was always missing. There was some good one or two plays, but then we didn’t score goals. We made bad decisions."
"So it’s up to us how we’re going to play, and the one thing that’s a good thing to know: if you play your best hockey you have a very good chance to win. You don’t have to worry about other things, but we have to make sure we play our best hockey."
Lineup Not Yet Set
Tuesday's practice saw Horton skating with Krejci and Lucic, the Bergeron and Campbell lines in tact, and Jagr flanking Kelly and Daugavins.
"I put some lines together today, but my lineup has not been done yet and it will only get finalized tomorrow," said Coach Julien. "I want everybody ready and that’s the way it is right now. We have line combinations today; doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the way it’s going to be."
With 15 forwards (along with eight healthy defensemen on the back end), Coach was asked about the challenges of deciding who gets the nod in Game 1.
"It’s been a challenge. I think, you’ve got some new faces come in, [Carl] Soderberg and then Jags [Jaromir Jagr] up front, [Kaspars] Daugavins. We’ve been inserting them in different areas," said Coach.
"We know Jags is a player that we want in our lineup, but he’s missed the last couple of games with flu-like symptoms, so we would have liked to see him play two more games and familiarize himself with our team, but that’s not the case."
"Is it a challenge? A bit of challenge, but I don’t think that that’s any need to think that we’re putting ourselves at a disadvantage because of that. We just have to, as I mentioned earlier, we just have to focus on playing our game and whoever’s in the lineup just has to respect our game plan and go forward."