CHICAGO – After sustaining an injury during the first overtime of Wednesday’s triple overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1, Nathan Horton returned to the ice for practice Friday afternoon at the United Center.
While that is an encouraging sign, Horton is still day-to-day with a shoulder injury after taking a hit from Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. But the 28-year old looked good in practice and Claude Julien hopes he can give it a go in Game 2 Saturday night.
“Same as I said yesterday, he’s day-to-day,” said the sixth-year Bruins coach. “It was an encouraging sign to see him out there today. If he feels good, he should be out there tomorrow.”
Injuries, bumps and bruises are pretty common this late into the postseason, and Horton is no exception. As teams get eliminated, the public hears more about those nicks and bruises during the year-end press conferences.
Things are no different for Horton as he’ll play with some discomfort assuming he gives it a go. And it’s safe to say, as with many players, that Horton will do all he can to stay in the lineup, even if it means playing with pain.
“You have to look at the teams that have been eliminated. As soon as they’re eliminated, you hear all about their injuries. It’s a very common thing in our sport, especially this time of year,” said Julien. “Nobody wants to be left out or pushed out of a lineup. When you look at the Stanley Cup, what it means to you, there’s no doubt, you don’t want to be denied that opportunity. Players are tough in this sport, they’ll play through a lot.”
If it turns out that Horton can’t suit up, then Julien will have a decision to make between Jordan Caron and Carl Soderberg. Having played against the Capitals last year, Caron is the more experienced of the two. But Soderberg, while only tallying two assists in six games after coming over from Sweden in April, has some upside too.
“Jordan [Caron] is a power forward, excels along the walls [in] front of the net. He’s gotten better at taking pucks to the net,” Julien said. “Soderberg is more of a playmaker, more of a centerman than a winger, but he can play both. He’s got good size and good skills. I said that at one point it’s unfortunate that he didn’t come to play with us maybe a month earlier just to get a better feel.
“Having said that, I would have no hesitation at all, if need be, to put either one of those guys in. They’re guys that are capable of stepping in and helping out. That’s why we call them depth players; they are capable of playing in these during the Stanley Cup Final.”
Horton’s presence will sure be needed, especially since the top line has returned to form. While they had their share of issues during the regular season, Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic have arguably been the Bruins best trio during the playoffs, much like they were when they won the Cup two years ago.
If Horton can’t go then Tyler Seguin, who skated with Krejci and Lucic when Horton went down, will likely take Horton’s void on the first line. But, while the Seguin-Krejci-Lucic trio looked pretty good in their stint Wednesday night, there’s no question that Horton plays an important role on the top unit.
“That line has been good for us in past playoffs and during the regular season at times,” Julien said. “If you look at your lineup throughout a whole year, everybody at some point has those ups and downs. Those guys our are focal points of our hockey club.”