Mark Stuart skated for a second straight day on Friday as he tries to recover from a nasty bout with cellulitis on his forearm. Since April 1, Stuart has undergone two surgeries for the rapidly spreading infection and is still sporting an antibiotic pump cast on the forearm.
But when he met the media after practice Friday, the main question wasn't about the pump or his condition. It was about how he has grown one of the best playoff beards in the NHL, one that is by far the best on his team.
"Yeah, I cheated," Stuart admitted with a laugh. "This was an injury [beard]. I started this when I got surgery, so I got a couple weeks on them."
But all kidding aside, this has been a scary and frustrating experience for the bruising rear guard, and he's thankful to be skating again with the possibility of returning to the lineup in this series with the Flyers.
"Yeah, it can be very serious," Stuart said explaining what it's like to suffer from cellulitis. "You have to take care of it. It is very serious and they did a good job of going in there and cleaning it out, and now it is up to me to watch it and make sure that I am taking the meds the right way. You have to take care of it. I think the doctors did a great job and a lot of the responsibility is on me."
As Stuart learned, cellulitis can appear to be gone and then reappear in a larger form, spreading rapidly from the origin of infection. Not every antibiotic can fight it off, and there is some trial and error in the treatment.
"It swelled up badly and the infection was bad and got worse and it escalated pretty quickly," he said.
Stuart wasn't allowed on the ice or to work out until recently because there was fear that sweat could activate the cellulitis again.
"I'm still undergoing treatment right now for the infection," he said before taking the ice. "But I'm allowed to get on the ice, which is huge because for a while I wasn't allowed."
Head coach Claude Julien said he's happy to see one of his top defensemen skating again and excited that the Bruins' blue line, which is also missing Dennis Seidenberg, could get a boost in this series. But he felt for Stuart and the frustration he must have gone through.
"Well, it is because what he has gone through is unpredictable as far as the length of time that he would miss and, you know, we were told something at the beginning and obviously it didn't respond as well," Julien said. "We got bad news in his case and things were looking worse. Now, things are looking much better. That's what happens with the type of injury that he has suffered and the infection that has gotten into it, so it is nice to see him on the ice. It is nice to have good news, and he is a day-to-day situation in terms of how he is doing and we will go with that. If everything goes well, hopefully we will see him practicing with the rest of the guys here soon."
But now after two days of skating and exercising, he is anxious to get back to playing and helping his team in the playoffs. With the infection not affecting anywhere else on his body, Stuart's been feeling fine for the last month. He's finally been able to let off some of that built-up steam from this frustrating experience.
"Just going out and skating, just jumping on the bike three days ago is huge for me," he said. "Just to start doing stuff. The worst part is not only just playing but not being able to do anything and really sweat, so I think it is just nice to get out there again and we will work on trying to get back playing.
"We're still playing and I'm still holding onto hope that I have a chance to get back out there. So we'll see."