PHILADELPHIA — Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart, out since April 1 with a finger infection, has been medically cleared to return to the lineup for tonight’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Flyers at Wachovia Center.
Head coach Claude Julien said the final decision about Stuart’s playing status will be made at game time. The Bruins have an absence on the back end with the injury to Adam McQuaid.
After more than a month as a spectator, and about a week or skating, Stuart is ready to get in on the playoff party the Bruins are enjoying.
“It’s so much fun, and you kind of get right in the intensity no matter what,’ he said after the morning skate today. Obviously I haven’t played in a game, but I still feel it watching the games, just being around the guys, you still feel the energy and you kind of feed off of that.”
Stuart went through line drills on a pair with Andrew Ference. If that’s the duo against the Flyers, Ference knows the role he can play in making sure Stuart’s transition back to active duty is a smooth one.
“Making sure he stays calm, I think,” said Ference, who skated with Stuart often during the regular season.
“Obviously you get pretty excited; he’s been out for a long time. It’s sometimes tough to keep the blood pressure down, I think, so I’m just making sure I’m a calming influence hopefully.”
Stuart expects that if he’s in, he’ll be the same player that has been a mainstay on Boston’s blue line the last three years.
“I just bring the same as I usually do, just try to play physical, play a good defensive game and move the puck up to our forwards. If I do get in tonight, it’ll probably be a pretty simple game for me,” he said.