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.”