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Nathan Horton insists that he’s ready to return, but Bruins take cautious approach

Sep 23, 2011, 5:27 PM EDT

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Nathan Horton Getty Images

There were plenty of controversial hits during the 2010-11 season, but Aaron Rome’s late check on Nathan Horton drew arguably the most attention because it took place during the Stanley Cup finals. Some might look back at that cheap shot as the turning point of the series, as it appeared to light a fire under the Boston Bruins for at least the rest of that game while the Vancouver Canucks were cemented as villains in many fans’ eyes. It was still a sickening sight to see Horton on a stretcher after that ugly hit, though.

The Bruins managed to win that series with Horton sidelined, but the bigger question for the former Florida Panthers forward is: how long will he feel the effects of that hit? (Also, some might wonder if he’s having any issues with his other injury: a separated shoulder that he fought through in previous playoff games.)

If you ask Horton, he’s already primed for a return to the ice. The hard-shooting winger said as much about a month ago, but Horton is working hard to prove that he’s healthy enough for the rigors of the 2011-12 season. That being said, he doesn’t blame the Bruins for taking a cautious approach – the team needs only to look at Marc Savard‘s struggles for an example of a hasty and ill-advised comeback.

On Friday, Horton insisted he hasn’t suffered any setbacks with either injury, and the team is just proceeding cautiously by keeping him out of games early in camp.

“I feel good,” Horton said. “It’s nice to try to get back into things. I haven’t had any setbacks. I feel fine. I look forward to feeling better and getting better on the ice.

“Obviously I want to get back [playing],” Horton added. “I’m here, I want to play. But it’s nice to ease my way back into it and get back into things. [It] gives me a chance to feel good and come in and hopefully feel better.”

After Friday, the Bruins will have four more exhibition games before the regular season starts, and Horton is expected to see action in at least a couple of those preseason contests. He’s just not certain when the first opportunity to play this year will come.

While the Bruins managed to win those final contests without him, Horton combines with David Krejci and Milan Lucic to form a top line that brings a formidable mix of scoring talent and grit to the table. Of course, for Horton to be effective, he cannot worry about the side effects of battling opponents, though.

Hopefully the Bruins remain prudent with Horton’s rehab process because the large forward has plenty of games left in him at 26 years old. At the same time, it’s understandable if there’s some eagerness in trying to reunite one of the best lines of the 2011 playoffs, too.

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