WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Johnny Boychuk said he feels good and that if it were up to him hell be suiting up for Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals.
The 26-year-old defenseman looked like he was down for the count when he suffered a left knee injury smashing into Arron Asham for a third period hit last week. He feared the worst when he went down on the ice after his left knee buckled inward. So did everyone else.
But instead the injury was ruled a sprain, and the rugged, hard-hitting defenseman went through a full practice, ignoring the medical staff that told him he wasnt cleared for contact.
I wasnt supposed to take any battles today, but I got in there for couple of battles and bumps to see how things would feel, said Boychuk. Im feeling good. It was a good step practicing with the team. There were no snags to hold me back, so I kept going.
I hope I play. I obviously dont want to sit out. Well see how it feels later on today and tomorrow, and then go from there. The injury still hurt when it happened, but it wasnt as bad as it could have been. Thats for sure.
Claude Julien said that the chances of Boychuk being ready to return Thursday night for Game 1 against Washington were not impossible.
Im still confident that Johnny Boychuk will be ready to start the playoffs, said Claude Julien. Tuukka Rask may be a little bit longer. But both players are still day-to-day.
Boychuk has essentially been Bostons No. 3 defenseman all season, and is the only other blueliner along with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg to average more than 20 minutes of ice time per game.
His return will be important for Bostons long-term success, and it allows him to continue waging a one-on-one war with Alex Ovechkin that the two physical, hard-nosed players have developed over the years. When they get together, it's a couple of big hockey bodies participating in some good, old-fashioned hockey violence.
Its fun hitting Ovechkin. To some players it might not seem all that fun, but hes a great player, said Boychuk. When he throws his body around you can feel it. When you do the same thing back to him Im sure hed say the same thing.
Its going to be fun to play against them . . . especially in the playoffs and maybe even seven games.