WILMINGTON, Mass. — When we last saw Mark Stuart, he wasn’t quite himself during Boston’s playoff ouster against Philadelphia. He was still on antibiotics for his hand infection and couldn’t quite catch up to the speed of Stanley Cup playoff hockey after rejoining the team mid-series.

Those days are well into the rear view now, as a 100-percent healthy Stuart has started the 2010-11 season by joining a bunch of his teammates for captains’ practices at Ristuccia Arena.

“I feel really good,” he said after today’s session. “As soon as I got off the antibiotics, my hand felt really good. I just had to loosen it up, but that was about it. I went back for those check-ups and those checked out good.”

The hand infection was the third major health-related reason for Stuart to leave the lineup last season, as he also suffered a broken sterum and broken pinky finger. Prior to the sternum injury, Stuart had never missed any time for health reasons.

So the 2009-10 season proved a learning experience from the physical and mental sides of the game.

“It wasn’t very fun. That was one of the hardest parts, was just mentally getting over it,” he admitted today. “I think at first I didn’t handle it very well. It was just a miserable situation. But once you realize it doesn’t help to get down about it, just try to get back, I came a long way – especially the third time, I guess.”

Stuart enters this season playing on a one-year deal he signed this summer. It’ll be vital for him to stay healthy and prove he can once and for all crack the top four on defense to show he has made the progress required of a first-round pick entering his fourth full NHL season.