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One step closer

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Bouillon takes part in full practice as return to action draws near

Francis Bouillon is looking forward to building on his career year in 2005-06.

MONTREAL - After months of patiently waiting for his knee to heal and spending tireless hours in the gym, Francis Bouillon's return to the Canadiens' blue line is right around the corner.

"We're getting there," said head coach Guy Carbonneau. "He got the green light from the doctor on Saturday night and now it's a matter of seeing how soon he feels strong enough to come back."

After almost five months of recovery and rehab, Bouillon is eager to jump back out there as soon as possible, but not at all costs.

"It's been going well and I really pushed it today at practice, but there are two more days until Wednesday's game," said Bouillon. "I need to make good use of the next 48 hours before deciding if I'll play."

Having capped the most offensively productive season of his seven-year career by inking a new three-year deal with the Canadiens in July, Bouillon has no intent of letting his surgically repaired left knee slow him down.

"My goal is to pick up where I left off last year," vowed the 31-year-old. "It's also going to feel great to be able to help the guys build on their strong start so far this year."

While Carbonneau would like nothing more than to pencil No. 51 back into his lineup as early as Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild, he is also being cautious with his stocky defenseman.

"You do all kinds of work in the gym, you feel you're ready and you think you're ready," warned Carbonneau. "But actually playing is often another story."

His roster may suddenly be busting at the seams with defensemen, but you won't hear Carbonneau complaining.

"Too many D is always better than not having enough," added Carbonneau, who intends to dress seven defensemen if need be. "Believe me, this is a good problem."

Manny Almela is a writer for

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