WILMINGTON, Mass. — Mark Stuart has been out of the Bruins' lineup for just over four weeks, which should put him in the home stretch in his recovery from a serious hand injury.
The Bruins' defenseman was projected to need four to six weeks to recover from a broken bone in the back of his right hand and a dislocated ring finger. The injury was suffered initially blocking a shot against Tampa Bay on Dec. 2, but Stuart played through the pain until further injuring the hand against Buffalo on Dec. 7.
"All I did was make a pass and the thing just caved in," Stuart said the following day. "It was just hanging on by a thread I think."
Stuart's hand is still not healed enough to begin shooting and stickhandling, but he has resumed skating. He worked out on his own with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides before the rest of the team took the ice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday.
Bruins coach Claude Julien couldn't offer an exact target date for Stuart's return or whether the blueliner will still make it back within the originally projected six-week window, but he did state that Stuart, who did not require surgery but has had the hand in several casts over the past month, has been making steady progress in his recovery.
"He's skating," Julien said. "He's coming along. I don't know how far he is from starting to handle pucks and that, but at least he's on the ice and things seem to be heading in the right direction."
When Stuart is ready to return, Julien will have a tough decision to make. Rookie Steven Kampfer has played well since being recalled to replace Stuart, offering a dimension of speed and mobility otherwise lacking in Boston's defense corps. Adam McQuaid has also performed well and provides a needed physical presence on the blue line. But barring another injury or trade, McQuaid could be relegated to the press box or Kampfer returned to Providence for more ice time when Stuart comes back.