It was a welcomed sight to have Nathan Horton skating with his Bruins teammates last week when things moved to Ristuccia Arena. It was an encouraging sight when Horton mixed it up with his Bruins teammates in contact drills around the net during their first training camp practice at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.
There was no hesitation or backing for the 27-year-old Horton, who is now almost a year removed from the Jan. 22 concussion that ended the 2011-12 season for him after Tom Sestito clipped him with a blindside hit. The Bruins right wing might have been a little rusty given that its been nearly a calendar year since hes played in a game, but he looked pretty comfortable skating with normal linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
Both wingers acknowledged they have some work to do, however, as neither Lucic nor Horton played in any games during the 119-day lockout. So theyre essentially playing catch up with Krejci, who produced at a high offensive level for his Pardubice club in the Czech League.
I was really excited. I felt really good. Weve still got a lot of work to do, but you just keep pressing forward to get yourself in the best shape you can, said Horton, who missed the final 36 regular season games last year. Its a short week so you cant go out and kill yourself in practice. Once you drop the puck for the games you need to get it going. Every game is going to mean something.
Ive been waiting a long time to get into contact drills and I felt good out there. Its just nice to be back and be able to do that.
One of the few upsides to the NHL lockout was the rest time it gave to injured players working their way back. Though Horton would have been cleared to play in September had there been no work stoppage, the extra time gave the 6-foot-2, 229-pounder even more peace of mind that any concussion issues are in the rear view mirror.
So now the Bruins management team and coaching staff will be anxious to see what Horton can bring them as he approaches unrestricted free agency following the shortened 2013 season.
The lockout was a silver lining for Horton because hes had that much more time to recover, said Peter Chiarelli. Now weve had enough rest, so were no longer fatigued from a Stanley Cup win. I think it just speaks to motivation that these guys are in a short season, so anything can happen.
Its a sprint and lets get going. Its more that the longer theyve been out now, the more motivated they are going to be.
Its been quite the year for Horton. It started with a hellish concussion in January, but also included the birth of his second child over the summer that ostensibly kept him from potentially skating overseas like so many other NHL players. Now its a new year and Horton is again back on the ice, and hes looking for the happy hockey story this time around after working hard to get to this point.