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Stuart Skates With the Team

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- This morning, Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart skated with the team for the first time since he injured his hand in December.

Stuart, who hasn't played since the B's played Buffalo on Dec. 7, spoke to the press after the team's morning skate on Thursday and said he felt "great."

"This is my first skate with the team though so it’s nice getting out there with the guys and passing the puck a little more.

"I wasn’t really shooting too much but hopefully soon," said Stuart.

Before his injury Stuart had an average ice time of 16:43 and a 0-2-2 line with 43 hits and 43 blocks and 23 penalty minutes in 26 games.

Although Stuart believes he's been cleared for contact, he appreciated the timing of his return to the fold.

"Pregame skate is a little different, but it was actually...the perfect time to come back just so I can move the puck around and not get in any battle drills or anything like that," said Stuart.

Asked about passing the puck with his healing hand, Stuart said, "Yeah I was passing fine, I was just flipping the puck at the net, I think push it a little more shooting wise than I did but I’ll wait and talk to the docs tonight I think take another x-ray just to make sure."

Stuart also implied that he hoped to be playing as early as next week.

"I mean it’s just get healthy and make sure I can play and then you know it’s up to the coaches its not like I just get a free pass back to the line up it’s you gotta earn it."

Asked about his defenseman's progress, after skate Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said, "He’s progressing normally I guess.

"As far as how close he is I’m not sure yet, I don’t know if anybody can predict that. I can say a week to ten days and it could be a little bit earlier and it could be a little bit more. I think it’s one of those hand injuries that you have to make sure heals properly.

"And the first day he went out he could feel it but that’s normal and it got better and good enough that he could skate with us today and do some line drills," said Julien.

Injuries limited Stuart to 56 games during the 2009-10 season and when he sat down on Dec. 18, 2009 Mark had played 214 consecutive games with the Bruins since breaking into the NHL with the B's at the start of the 2007-08 season.

Despite his experience dealing with injury, Stuart said it doesn't get any easier.

"I don’t care who you are you always want to be playing -- you always want to be in the line-up," said Stuart. "It’s never fun being on the outside, but I think having experience with it, it helps mentally.

"I knew a little bit of what to expect and you know John Whitesides worked with me...everyday for the last four weeks.

"He really helped me through it and kept me in shape," he said.

Julien talked about Stuart's recent bad luck, injury-wise.

"For the longest of time he was like an iron man, never got hurt and then last year got those situations happen[ed]," said Julien. "And it just seems they all come in bunches.

"So it’s part of the game and unfortunately you have to bite the bullet, fight through it and work your way back into the lineup when you’re healed."

But Julien wouldn't bite on a question regarding the B's having to make roster decisions when Stuart becomes healthy enough to play.

"It’s probably a little early to answer that question," said Julien. "Why answer it when we don’t even know how far [along] he is.

"When the situation happens we’ll deal with it."
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