The sight of Nathan Horton skating, shooting the puck with his quick-trigger release and smiling brightly with his teammates was a welcomed scene on Thursday morning at Ristuccia Arena.
The 27-year-old missed the final 36 regular season games and the playoffs last year after suffering a concussion against the Flyers on Jan. 22 on a blindside hit from Tom Sestito. But the Boston power forward has had nearly an entire calendar year to recover courtesy of Gary Bettman and Don Fehr as they waged the war known as the NHL lockout. That's perhaps the only positive development the Bruins can report out of the work stoppage, and it means the 6-foot-2, 229-pound Horton is again ready to throw his considerable weight around.
He looked big out there, said Tyler Seguin. Hes obviously been hitting the gym hard this whole time and looks ready to go.
For his part Horton said he would have been ready to go had the NHL season started on time in October, and went through a summer of skating, running and riding the bike without a single setback. He was skating with the Bruins at the end of last season, but was kept out of the playoffs with some lingering symptoms. Horton was given full medical clearance by the Bruins staff in July. So it's all systems go in January.
I feel great better than I have in a long time, said Horton. I had a lot of time to work out and get back to normal. All summer I had no issues. Im just excited to get going.
Skating around at an informal practice engaging in some battle drills and plenty of up-and-down action certainly wont recreate the heavy contact a power player like Horton will experience once the season begins. But he said hes not worried about it. Another thing that's in his favor: hes returned from a major concussion once before already and understands the process of jumping back amid the rough-and-tumble edges of the NHL.
Im not even worried about my head, said Horton. Or being in contact; or getting into a fight. I feel better than I have in a long, long time.
David Krejci was still missing from the practice ice as of Thursday morning, so Horton and Milan Lucic couldnt reunite with their other linemate immediately. But the first test was passed as Horton looked healthy, happy and ready to go as he skated around with the rest of his teammates in their first day back at the practice facility.