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Boucher Practices with Team

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
As Cam Ward's situation continues to be clouded in uncertainty, the Carolina Hurricanes received good news on the goaltending front when Brian Boucher returned to practice on Wednesday.

It was the first team practice for the 35-year-old Woonsocket, Rhode Island native since suffering a lower-body injury in practice on Dec. 5.

Michael Smith
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Even though he’s still a ways off from getting back into game-shape – head coach Kirk Muller estimated 10 days, at least – Wednesday marked an important step in his recovery process.

“It feels good to be back out there, face some shots and just be with your teammates,” he said. “It’s been a lonely two-and-a-half months working by myself, so it’s nice to get back out there.”

For the two weeks immediately following his injury, Boucher was completely shut down, as he received platelet-rich plasma therapy, commonly known as PRP.

According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, this treatment involves taking a patient’s own blood, spinning it in a machine until it contains a mix of plasma cells and growth factors and then injecting it into the injured area. This then stimulates the body’s instincts to repair the injured area. Essentially, it expedites what is a natural process.

Following that two weeks of “literally doing nothing,” Boucher began light workouts.

“I started to do leg workouts, as little as just walking on the treadmill with a little bit of an incline,” he said. “That progressed to running and eventually to riding the bike and doing everything. Once you master all the things in the weight room, then your next step is on the ice.”

Boucher began skating on his own after the All-Star break. Participating in team practices, as he did today, is a different animal.

“When I was on the ice with Tommy, we’re doing stuff in controlled settings,” he said. “It’s a drill that’s set beforehand. I know what I’m going to do, I know the movement I’m going to make, I know the save I’m going to make. When you get into practices, there’s some uncertainty – 2-on-1s, it could hit a skate, go the other way and you have to react and make a save accordingly. That puts stresses on you that you haven’t had.”

Concussions have plagued the Canes’ locker room this season. Jeff Skinner, Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison have all missed time with them and all varied in how much time they missed; that’s the nature of concussions, in that they affect each person differently.

Boucher’s recovery, on the other hand, was mapped out meticulously.

“I’ve never had a concussion. I can’t imagine it being day-to-day where you’re waiting to see how you wake up to determine what the next step is,” Boucher said. “In my case, they knew it was going to be close to three months, and you just kind of progress slowly and try not to have any setbacks.”

While Mike Murphy was called up for the balance of the Canes’ Canadian road swing on which Boucher was injured, Justin Peters has handled the brunt of the back-up duties. In Peters’ last two starts, he’s made 52 saves on 54 shots, earned a shutout and won two in a row. Ward, before going down with a minor lower-body injury, was playing his best hockey of the season.

“Cam has done a great job. It’s not easy to play every night,” Boucher said. “His play is really what’s started to turn things around.

“Justin’s done a great job stepping in for Cam, and you need that often times in organizations. If you’re going to have success, you need organizational depth at all positions.”

In other goaltender news, Ward did not practice today. Muller is confident the injury isn’t serious, but stressed caution.

“We’ll judge Cam tomorrow and see if he’s ready,” he said. “We’re not going to use Cam until he’s ready to go and 100 percent healthy. With Peters playing the way he is, we’re certainly confident to be able to use him if we have to tomorrow.”

It’s a good problem to have when you’re deciding between two capable and confident goaltenders and have a proven veteran on the verge of returning, as well.

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