It was a rather eventful afternoon for an optional Devils practice at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House on Monday.
Marcus Johansson was on the ice with his teammates for the first time since he suffered a concussion against the Boston Bruins on Jan. 23. Johansson had been skating on his own for the past couple of weeks, but Monday was the first time he was able to skate with the rest of the group.
"It kind of felt like coming back after summer a little bit," Johansson said when asked how he felt following the practice. "It's been a long time, it's fun being out there with the guys and skating and doing what you love.
"It's getting there. There's a little bit to go, I'm not at one hundred percent yet but I'm taking it day by day. Hopefully I'm improving every day."
Johansson is still not medically cleared to play, but Coach John Hynes was simply pleased to see him back on the ice with his teammates.
"It's great for Marcus. He's had a tough road here since he wound up with that hit in Boston. For a player, one of the things you like is being part of the team and being around the team and we were gone for so long. Physically he looks good and looks in shape. Now it's about getting him back into some situations like we worked on with him today. He's a real important part of our team, a real important player. It's exciting for him and for our team to see him practicing the way he practiced today."
Johansson has played just 29 games in his first season with New Jersey, while missing 46 due to injury.
"Obviously this is not the way I wanted my first year here to go," Johansson said. "It's been a tough year, but you always want to get back out there. No matter what time of year, or the circumstances are. All I can do is take it day-by-day and see how it goes. Hopefully, I'll keep improving.
Another welcomed addition to practice was that of forward Miles Wood. Wood hyperextended his arm against the Anaheim Ducks on March 18 and has missed three consecutive games.
"When it first happened, I thought it was the Tommy John [injury]. That kind of freaked me out. I was more scared about that. I'm happy it wasn't serious like that. Overall, I feel good now. I feel prepared to play if I'm in the lineup."
Wood says he feels well enough to play, but that decision will come after a full morning skate on Tuesday.
The Devils will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Keith Kinkaid will start in net, which will be a third consecutive start for the goaltender.