Nathan Horton missed the last five games of the regular season because of an upper-body injury suffered during a fight with Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla. That streak does not look like it will extend to six games.
On Tuesday at TD Garden, Horton practiced with his teammates for the first time since leaving that April 20 game. The right winger was alongside usual linemates Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
Horton did not appear to have any limitations during practice. He skated on the No. 2 power-play unit. And he should be in the lineup when the playoffs begin Wednesday night against Toronto.
“I’m doing good,” Horton said. “It’s nice to be back out there again. I’ve been working hard. I’m feeling good.”
Concussions derailed Horton in the last two postseasons. He didn’t dress for the final four games of the Stanley Cup Final in 2010-11 after absorbing a thundering check from Vancouver’s Aaron Rome in Game 3. Last year, Horton’s final game was on Jan. 22, 2012, when he suffered a season-ending concussion following a hit from Philadelphia’s Tom Sestito. Horton didn’t appear in the first-round series against Washington, which the Bruins lost in seven games.
Prior to the Rome hit, Horton had emerged as a playoff hero. He scored the Game 7 overtime winner against Montreal in the first round in 2011. And he scored the only goal in the 1-0 win over Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“He was huge for us two years ago in what he did and the big goals that he scored,” Lucic said. “He’s looking forward to this challenge and playing against his hometown team, like so many guys on our team, against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“He’s a big part of this hockey team. I think it showed how much we truly missed him last year against Washington. Hopefully he can step up for us like he did two years ago in the playoffs.”
The Bruins are counting on Horton to find his rhythm quickly. In the last three regular-season games, Lucic played with pace and presence. If Horton can follow Lucic’s lead, the two burly wingmen should help the Bruins turn around their misfiring offense.
That is no guarantee. Horton had 13 goals and 9 assists in 43 games this season. Because the sputtering performances of Lucic and Horton overlapped, the Bruins were too often a one-line offense.
This could be Horton’s final playoff run in Boston. He will be an unrestricted free agent, so he is playing for his next contract as well as for a Cup.
“It means a lot to me,” Horton said of the postseason opportunity. “I think it means a lot to everyone. Everyone didn’t have their best season, including me. We’re just looking forward to the new season, to the playoffs. This is where we need to be at our best.”
Rich Peverley filled Horton’s spot for four of the five games the right wing missed. Based on Monday’s practice, Peverley may be out of the lineup because of Horton’s return.
Peverley was one of three forwards on a fifth line. Carl Soderberg and Jay Pandolfo were the other spare forwards.
Peverley scored a power-play goal in Sunday’s 4-2 season-ending loss to Ottawa. The night before, he took an ill-advised offensive-zone tripping penalty in the third period against Washington. The Capitals tied the game with Peverley in the box en route to a 3-2 win.
“We all know that Pev is a better player than he’s shown,” said coach Claude Julien. “But I think he’s been getting better. He’s skating a lot better than he has all year.
“I think his stats are a little disappointing for him. We’ve seen how good a player he can be. We certainly have hopes of him being a good player for us in the playoffs.”
Peverley was projected to skate with Chris Kelly and Jaromir Jagr on the No. 3 line. But Kaspars Daugavins turned in two steady games to close out the regular season. Daugavins practiced with Kelly and Jagr on Tuesday.
“I’m really excited,” Daugavins said. “If I play tomorrow, I have to keep going the same way I played the last two games. Make sure the legs are going, get pucks deep, win my battles, and take pucks to the net.
“I’m playing with two great players. So hopefully we’ll get some offense going and be good on defense. It’s a good chance to prove myself again.”
The Bruins tumbled to fourth place in the NHL on the penalty kill (87.1 percent) to close out the season after allowing nine power-play goals in their last eight games. Toronto had the 14th-ranked power play in the NHL (18.7 percent). “We weren’t really doing anything different,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t change our PK or anything. We were doing the same things. That’s how it goes sometimes.” . . . Jagr practiced Tuesday after sitting out the last two regular-season games with flulike symptoms. Jagr manned his usual right-side half-wall spot on the No. 1 power-play unit . . . The Garden crowd will break out its “Thank You Kessel” chant if Tyler Seguin gets on the scoreboard. Seguin has 10 goals and 6 assists in 16 career games against his hometown club. “I think it’s funny,” Marchand said. “It just shows how much our fans care about our teams. It’s a bit of a statement that they love Segs and they’re very happy to have Segs here. We’re very lucky to have Tyler.” . . . Dougie Hamilton and Aaron Johnson should be the healthy scratches on defense . . . Tyler Bozak, Toronto’s No. 1 center, practiced Tuesday between Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, his usual linemates. Bozak didn’t dress for the final two regular-season games because of an upper-body injury.