WILMINGTON, Mass. — There were plenty of positive vibes at the rink as the Bruins practiced at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday.
The team spent much of the session working on breakaways and shootouts, always a popular drill with the players. At least for the skaters, though goalies Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask might have a slightly different opinion of the proceedings.
And before practice, injured winger Marco Sturm skated on his own for the first time since suffering a torn MCL and ACL in his right knee in May. Marc Savard, who is recovering from post-concussion syndrome symptoms, then joined a handful of teammates on the ice for a brief workout prior to the start of the formal practice.
It was definitely an encouraging day at Ristuccia, especially with the progress Sturm is making.
"He finally gets to skate, I'm sure he's as excited as anybody to get back on his skates," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "It's been a long journey, to say the least."
But when asked about what getting a healthy Sturm back in the lineup would mean to the Bruins, Julien was quick to temper the excitement.
"Boy, you guys are quick on the gun here," said Julien. "He's a long ways away. I can't even think about that right now because he's so far away.
"Let's give him a break here," added Julien, "and give him a chance to find his way, before we can even think about where we're going to put him."
Sturm himself admitted it would "be tough" to return by the original target date of late November and that he didn't want to risk coming back at less than 100 percent. That's understandable. This is the second major knee injury Sturm has had to endure, as he missed most of the 2008-09 season after surgery on his left knee. And with the Bruins off to a strong start, not to mention their pending cap crunch, there's no need for either Sturm or Savard to rush their recoveries.
Julien withheld judgment on Sturm's status pending more strenuous activities. Sturm plans to continue skating on his own for the new few weeks, then slowly ramp up his rehab program.
"Today was just going out there for a leisurely skate," said Julien. "When he gets pushed we'll find out more and go from there."
As for Savard, Julien has been encouraged by the center's progress, but is also taking a very cautious approach to Savard's return as well.
"Steady, slow improvement day by day," said Julien. "This is about taking care of Savvy the person, before taking care of Savvy the player. We did that with Patrice [Bergeron], and it turned out really, really well, because he's healthy today, and things have, I guess, turned out in his favor in the long run. So we want to do the same thing here with Savvy.
"It's not about pushing him for the sake of a job," added Julien. "It's about making sure you do the right thing for the sake of the kind of life he wants to have from here on in."