Boston, MA --
As the Bruins pack up to leave tomorrow for their west coast road trip, defenseman Mark Stuart is happy to be packing his suitcase as well. The defenseman will be making the trip with the team to sunny California, hopeful for a bright return to the blue line.
After almost a month on the injured reserve with a broken sternum, lately he has been practicing regularly with the team and getting back into game shape.
In the meantime, the B’s have three big games ahead of them while they are out on the left coast, against the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Los Angeles Kings. Whether Stuart will be in the lineup for any or all of the games has yet to be determined, he remains optimistic.
“[I’ll play] probably not Wednesday, but hopefully at some point on the trip,” he said. “We’ll see, I got to start doing some contact and then, you know, it’s up to them when they want to put me in the lineup.
“I feel like it’s been a year, but I feel good so I’m ready to go.”
He broke his sternum during the Dec. 14 Winter Classic preview against the Philadelphia Flyers, but before his injury, Stuart had played in 182 consecutive games, a fact which made his absence even more difficult to offset. Particularly since a groin injury took out fellow defenseman Andrew Ference
on Jan. 5.
After the Bruins final practice before the trip to Anaheim, Stuart explained that the most difficult thing about injury is ironically not the pain, but the recovery.
“It was really tough at first,” Stuart said. “The worst part was just that I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t skate or anything.
“But once you start working out and skating, you can at least see the end in sight and it gets a little bit easier because you’re actually pushing toward a goal.”
Head coach Claude Julien remains cautious about putting Stuart in too soon, making sure to not put him at risk for further injury.
“He needs medical clearance, and with that type of injury, you need your doctor and your medical staff to say he’s clear to go and then we decide whether we feel he’s had enough time with us to jump in there,” Julien said.
No matter whether he plays in California or not, Stuart is comfortable knowing that every day that passes means he’s one day closer to when he’ll be back in the Bruins lineup alongside his teammates.
“It’s good to hear,” he said. “Hopefully it happens, and if it doesn’t happen then we’ll shoot for next week. We got plenty of games coming up.”