NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils
defenseman Paul Martin
is ecstatic to finally be sitting comfortably at his locker-room stall following a morning skate with teammates.
Martin, who skated with the full team Sunday and Monday at Prudential Center for the first time since fracturing his left forearm against Pittsburgh on Oct. 24, is looking at Saturday's home game against the St. Louis Blues
as a target date for his return to the lineup.
"I'm definitely anxious and excited to get back in the lineup, but right now I have to take it day by day and hopefully I'll be in there soon," Martin said. "I've learned my lesson about setting dates on when I'll be back. The bone is 100 percent, but from being in a cast so long it's pretty weak and pretty tight so it still has to loosen up and get some strength back."
Martin, who had a bone graft, and a titanium plate and screws inserted into his left forearm Dec. 22 to promote healing, has missed the last 58 games. He's currently wearing a five-inch long brace on the forearm, which, he says, feels good.
"I want to get in there as soon as I can, but it's going to take time to get the strength back," he said. "It's already shown improvement from where it was. My goal would be this Saturday, but if the doctors say otherwise, maybe I could get in there even sooner."
"I want to get in there as soon as I can, but it's going to take time to get the strength back. It's already shown improvement from where it was. My goal would be this Saturday, but if the doctors say otherwise, maybe I could get in there even sooner." -- Paul Martin
Following practice, Martin was scheduled to visit Dr. Charles Melone at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York before attending a session with physical therapist Gary Flink, in Hackensack. Melone performed the surgery on Martin. If that appointment goes well, Martin said there's a chance he could return sooner than Saturday -- maybe Thursday against the Maple Leafs.
"I think it's a possibility, definitely," Martin said. "I don't know what the chances would be on that. Even Gary, the therapist, was saying that he wanted to see me for a couple more days to see how we go before he makes any big decisions."
The only issue for Martin at this stage is his ability to effectively shoot the puck.
"I definitely can't shoot as well as I'd like," he said. "The strength is lacking so I have to get my strength back. Otherwise my goal was to get everything else on pace so when I come back, (shooting) is the only factor. We still got a ways to go. They say this won't be 100 percent for a while. I'm slowly trying to regain strength and I just hope to start playing sooner than later to get it adjusted.
"I'm just hoping my instincts kick in and will help me get back into things (upon my return). It's almost just like just starting up again, but I don't get a 10-game grace period since it's the end of the season, so the sooner I get back in there, the better."
Martin was all smiles following Monday's morning practice in preparation for the Boston Bruins
. The Devils are four points behind Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh.
"I haven't been (at my locker) in a while and it just feels good being part of the team again and being around the guys," he said.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com