One might think that a defensive defenseman like Mark Stuart,  who brought all of five career NHL goals into this season, would be immune to the effects of a scoring slump.

But tonight before the Bruins’ contest with Atlanta at the TD Banknorth Garden, Stuart admitted that scoring two goals last night in Atlanta — his first goals since Nov. 1 (16 games) was a bit of a relief.

“It had been a while. And after I got that first one, it was kind of nice,” he said. “I had been thinking about it, to tell the truth. So to kind of get it off my back, I was able to relax right away and gain a little confidence.”

The goal was made more¬† special by the presence of his dad Mike, who was on hand in hopes of seeing both Mark and brother Colin, an Atlanta forward, square off. While Colin was a healthy scratch last night, he’ll be in the line-up tonight.

And Mark Stuart will continue to have a bigger role now that Aaron Ward is back on the shelf with his leg injury. In Atlanta, Stuart skated for 19:34 — his most ice time since he surpassed 20 minutes in a Nov. 22 win at Montreal.

“I think the more you’re getting a regular shift, the easier it is – to stay in the game, stay fresh,” he said. “When you’re out there every three or four minutes, you just kind of get in a rhythm. But if you’re not getting those minutes, you’ve got to be able to adapt and stay in the game and make sure you’re ready whenever you get that shift.”